Boosting COVID vaccine access and easing hesitancy in hard-hit southeast Raleigh

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- While North Carolina is making headway to close its vaccination gap between its white population and communities of color, it's still seeing inequity in distribution of the vaccine. In hard-hit southeast Raleigh, there's a new effort to boost access and ease vaccine hesitancy.

Daycare worker Maria Marshall was in the observation area after receiving her first dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.

"We had a lot of trouble getting it. At CVS, Walgreens, the waiting lists were really long," Marshall said.

Then, she saw a post about the mobile vaccine clinic at Advance Community Health Center on Rock Quarry Road. "So we called yesterday and we got an appointment right away. I'm very excited, very excited to get our shot," she said. "I feel like our community got hit really hard with COVID."

Southeast Raleigh was not just hit hard. It was hit the hardest. Through the pandemic, the 27610 ZIP code, with its large Black and Brown population, has led the state in COVID cases: 8,033 cases. 74 people have died.

"We'll definitely make sure we have deep penetration into vulnerable communities," said Scot McCray, CEO of Advance Community Health which was shepherding Friday's first-ever mobile vaccine clinic in the community through a partnership with the Southeast Raleigh YMCA.

Over the past two weeks: 18.8% of vaccinations have gone to African-Americans, statewide. But they make-up 23% of the population. 8.2% of vaccines have gone to Hispanic and LatinX people who make up 9.6% of the population.

The clinic in southeast is about increasing access and easing hesitancy about a vaccine that some are still skeptical of.

"I would talk to my friends and they'd say they're not gonna get the shot because it hasn't been tested enough; they were afraid they would get sick and die; they didn't believe in the shot," Marshall said.

"I think the biggest number we look at when we talk about hesitancy is half of the people we vaccinate, not just our patients but the community, have been African-American," said McCray. "So we're very excited about that. We want that number to be higher. But I think it shows we're getting the right message across and building that trust."

"I feel great. I'm glad I got my vaccination," Marshall added. "I encourage everyone to get theirs."

It's thoughts like that state health officials are counting on more people taking back into their communities. State Health Director Betsey Tilson telling ABC 11 that community clinics at trusted sites are critically important to ending the pandemic.
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