We know that those hit the hardest by the pandemic, often from low-income backgrounds and communities of color, are also not getting vaccinated as much as others. That's quickly changing in parts of Northern Virginia.
Neighborhood Health, a large provider of medical services for the under-insured and those without health insurance in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County, is collaborating with scores of community groups to identify people in need and getting them vaccinated. We should note, Neighborhood Health is not open to the general public.
Dr. Basim Khan says, “In state after state and nationally we are seeing that communities of color, particularly Black and Hispanic residents, are being vaccinated at lower rates.”
Dr. Basim Khan, who runs Neighborhood Health, says they’ve doled out some 10,000 vaccines and 85-percent have been to people of color. He says the key is improving access to an often confounding process.
“We need to make it easy for them to get the vaccine and when you have long wait lists, when you have on-line forms that are difficult to navigate, sometimes it’s difficult for them to get access to the vaccine in the first place. But, when you offer them this access and when you do it in a way that’s easy and the vaccinate is available quickly, our experience is that most people that we have offered the vaccine to have been interested," says Dr. Khan.
On this day, we were at Mount Vernon Woods Elementary School during a food disttibution event hosted by United Community. After families picked up bags of healthy food they could register to get vaccinated at Neighborhood Health. A number of people were there to answer questions, provide education and alleviate any concerns people might have about getting vaccinated.
One woman told us that she lost her job due to the pandemic and initially had concerns about the vaccine’s effectiveness and side effects. But an employee at Neighborhood Health convinced her of the vaccine's safety and efficacy. She told us getting that shot in the arm will also help her get back to work sooner.
Carla Claure is another piece of this innovative puzzle. She lives in the community, struggles herself and works with United Community as a neighborhood ambassador to feed her friends and convince them to get vaccinated. So far, she’s registered some 250 people.
Claure says, "Every time you have one person who makes the prescription one life is saved, for sure.”
Neighborhood Health officials say their vaccine registration program is going so well that they plan on opening up additional vaccination sites.