NEWS

How Organizations Are Working Toward Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Man receiving a vaccine shot in the arm.

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Key Takeaways

  • BIPOC communities, especially Black and Indigenous people, have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Community organizations have amped up their efforts to vaccinate more people of color. 
  • Mobile vans and town hall meetings are just some of the methods that community organizations are using to help get BIPOC folks vaccinated.

COVID-19 vaccine rollout is slowly increasing across the country, with efforts expected to ramp up as the U.S. adds a third authorized vaccine to its arsenal. However, many of the communities hit the hardest by the pandemic have lagged behind in receiving and signing up for the vaccine.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, BlPOC communities, particularly Black and Indigenous communities, have disproportionately died due to COVID-19. Now, as vaccines begin to curb severe COVID-19 illness and hospitalizations, some of those same communities are falling behind in vaccination. A Kaiser Health News analysis found that Black Americans’ vaccination rates are significantly lower than that of White Americans.

In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 and prevent further mortality, community organizations are working to get more people of color vaccinated. 

Reaching BIPOC Communities

Community leaders are instituting ways to reach out to BIPOC communities, whether it's by holding town hall meetings or running mobile vaccination vans. Verywell spoke to organization leaders about the efforts they're undertaking.

Town Hall Meetings

Crystal Clark, MD, MSc, president of Marcé of North America and associate professor of psychiatry of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, tells Verywell that hosting town hall meetings is one way she and other doctors have been trying to address vaccine hesitancy. “The town hall was a two-hour meeting that brought together BIPOC doctors to talk to the community which we have more than 200 people attend virtually,” Clark says. 

For Clark and other BIPOC doctors, town hall meetings have become a space to address any concerns or answer questions the local BIPOC community may have about the vaccines. Clark addressed questions about how the vaccines worked, whether they were safe, and informed people that mRNA technology has been studied for years. “So the audience was able to ask questions; we each gave a small presentation about different aspects of vaccination,” Clark explains. 

All attendees of the town hall meeting were asked to fill out a pre- and post-town hall meeting survey that asked how likely they were to get vaccinated. “We did a post-survey and [likelihood that people would get the vaccine] increased by 30%," she says.

Monica Mizell, MSN, MHA, a chief nursing officer and vice president at Community Health of South Florida Inc., also tells Verywell that providers participate in town hall Zoom meetings to discuss various topics about the vaccine. “So meeting people where they are and showing them what the science is showing,” Mizell says.  

Mobile Vaccination Vans

Town hall meetings haven’t been the only means of bolstering vaccine uptake. Mizell, who has been working at Community Health of South Florida Inc. for over 29 years, shares that the organization has 11 centers providing vaccines. 

To reach populations that can’t get to the clinics, the organization disseminates COVID-19 vaccines via mobile vans. “We put together a medical mobile band, administering vaccines to those individuals that have limited access to getting to the centers,” Mizell says. This allows them to bring vaccines directly to the people. 

To make the mobile vans possible, Mizell says outreach workers serve as liaisons between the organization and the community. “They are connecting with individuals, getting the list together, reaching out, [finding out] who’s interested in the vaccine, and then go from there with setting up,” she says.

Representation

Faith-based leaders have also been an integral component of Community Health of South Florida Inc.'s vaccine distribution. Faith-based leaders will be “liaisons and the voices for us to reach their parishioners, and for them to bring any questions and concerns back to us,” Mizell explains. 

Mizell shares that representation has helped them build trust in their communities. “I am an African American. There are people that will look at me and I have people that trust me,” she says. Representation is also how Mizell and the organization reach the migrant community.

The staffing of their mobile vans also reflects the languages of the population they serve in South Florida. “The driver speaks Creole, English, French," she says. "The nurse practitioner speaks Spanish. Medical assistants speak English and Spanish. So all of those languages are covered."

In January, the organization received 1,500 Moderna vaccines from the state and has collaborated with trusted community members such as faith-based leaders to disseminate these doses. “Our goal is to set up clinics at local churches in the Black community,” Mizell says. 

Community Health of South Florida Inc. is expected to receive more doses from the federal government and will set up its first collaboration with a local church this Sunday. 

Overcoming Challenges 

One of the biggest challenges Mizell has encountered in her work is explaining the oftentimes confusing process of vaccine prioritization. “We have people that are younger than 65 that really want the vaccine, but they have not been able to receive it,” she says. “So we’ve had to do a lot of educating and making them aware that there are guidelines that are set in place.” 

In addition to prioritization, Mizell says that vaccine dissemination requires a coordinated effort in order to prevent vaccine waste and ensure that the communities that need vaccines the most are getting them. “It’s a delicate operation," she says. "If we bring in said amount of vaccines, once we open those vials, we have to administer it on that day."

For Clark, vaccine hesitancy has been an uphill battle, but leveraging virtual town hall meetings has helped her keep her local community informed. “I urge people to not take the risk of getting the actual virus," Clark says. "The sooner and the more people that get vaccinated, the more likely we are to achieve herd immunity. And the sooner we can get back to our lives, which is affecting our mental health.” 

What This Means For You

If you are eligible in your state, try to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Check your state or local county's public health department's websites and social media to find out more about how to secure an appointment. You can also head to VaccineFinder.org, spearheaded by the CDC, to help locate available vaccines near you.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. APM Research Lab. The Color of Coronavirus. COVID-19 Deaths By Race And Ethnicity In The U.S. Updated February 4, 2021.

  2. Gramlich J, Funk C. Black Americans Face Higher COVID-19 Risks, Are More Hesitant to Trust Medical Scientists, Get Vaccinated. Pew Research Center. Updated June 4, 2020.