Advocates engage in vaccine outreach to Asian American and Pacific Islander community

North Carolina is continuing to increase its vaccination rates, and has now surpassed more than 2 million people who have been at least partially vaccinated.

State health officials are now making efforts to address vaccine demographic disparities, with advocates urging them to engage in outreach with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

"For members of communities that have experienced racism, discrimination, or oppression, it's always going to be better meet folks where they feel the most comfortable. So that can be places like the Asian grocery store, or a church, or a mosque," said Hyun Namkoong, a Policy Advocate with the North Carolina Justice Center.

Thus far, 2.9% of vaccines have gone to members of the AAPI community, who make up 3.5% of the state's population. While North Carolina has earned praise for its transparency in providing vaccine demographic information, Namkoong pointed to the diverse nature of the AAPI community.

"Asian Americans are dumped into this monolithic group, and what I would like to see is data that is disaggregated," said Namkoong.

The North Carolina Justice Center has released fliers with vaccination information targeting immigrants in several languages, including Chinese, Burmese, Vietnamese, and Arabic.

Outside language barriers, Namkoong also pointed to work responsibilities as creating difficulty to access shots.

"Asian Americans make up a pretty significant portion of small business owners, and it can be very challenging for a small business owner to take the time to go and get vaccinated," explained Namkoong.

While there are now more vaccine providers and larger-scale events, targeted outreach is essential in gaining trust and ensuring sign-ups. On Friday, the Hindu Society of North Carolina, located in Morrisville, will host a vaccine clinic.

"The convenience, having a site closer to where folks live. And this clinic is for all Morrisville citizens, so anyone living in Morrisville can go, number 1. Number 2, there is a high level, obviously, it's a Hindu Temple, of Indian-Americans, that belong there. They're members there, they're used to going there, " said Morrisville Council Member Steve Rao.

"It's important for our healthcare system to take that into consideration, and partnering with appropriate organizations so that everyone can get vaccinated,' said Namkoong.

Rao said the Temple's location on Aviation Parkway, spacious hallways, and large parking lot make it an ideal location for a clinic, on top of the already familiar surroundings.

"Seeing people you (know) would make it a lot better. And then the trust, Avance (Care Pharmacy, which is working the clinic), we know the doctors there, it's a small community. Just having those doctors with the needles is going to comfort people, it's a level of trust," said Rao.

All appointments for tomorrow's vaccine clinic at the Hindu Society Temple have been filled, though Rao noted there may be plans to bring future events to the location.
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