How grassroots efforts led to fewer NC COVID-19 deaths among minorities

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a race to vaccinate the masses. Major pharmaceutical corporations rolled out vaccines that medical professionals called effective against a virus gripping the lives of many across America.

Access, existing health conditions, and jobs putting those working at increased risk of exposure were major factors that particularly affected ethnic minorities.

"Early on, we really saw strong data that showed a disproportionate impact on minorities when it comes to COVID infections and poor outcomes," WakeMed Infection Prevention Specialist Jessica Dixon said.

She saw the virus devastating ethnic minorities, especially those in low-income households.

"The outreach done in our community really helped level the playing field so we can all have the same access to treatment. Same access to preventative measures and information that will encourage uptake of preventative measures," Dixon added.

And so did grassroots organizations such as La Semilla and WakeMed's "Sister Circle". The organizations rallied around minorities to dispel misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.

Their outreach was geared toward Latinos, which at one point accounted for 44% of COVID-19 cases across the state. They targeted Spanish-speaking areas and opened drive-through vaccination sites.

"It's a reaction of celebration and gratitude for all the hard work," said Pastor Edgar Vergara with La Semilla. "When you take vaccines to where people live, it makes a big difference."

WakeMed's "Sister Circle" is a group of Black female doctors joining forces to close the racial gap in COVID-19 vaccination rates.

"Even several of our "Sister Circle" members had unfortunate losses. That really inspired us to work harder. This was a matter of life and death," Dr. Nerissa Price said.

The work continues for both organizations as medical professionals say COVID-19 is still a threat to all communities.

"COVID-19 doesn't care that we're tired. It doesn't care we had a taste of normalcy," said Dixon. "COVID is still out there. There's still people getting sick. Still people dying."
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