Tackling COVID-19 vaccine equity; no group left behind


NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — A local organization wants to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are fairly distributed to make sure communities who are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus have access.

Two of those communities are the Latin-X and Marshallese population. They were hit hard during the pandemic and Arkansas United is worried some of the same issues that came up with testing and prevention are back with the the vaccinations.

You may remember the CDC came to Northwest Arkansas during the summer and conducted a full report which showed that Latin-X and Marshallese people faced cultural, language and financial barriers when it comes to prevention testing and medical care.

As a result, the department of health worked with several community leaders and health systems for a targeted approach to provide relief in those areas and numbers in those communities improved.

Founding, Executive Director Mireya Reith with Arkansas United says the same approach needs to be done when it comes to encouraging people in those communities to get vaccinated.

“We can work together to make sure that the vaccine is successful. Then as state, as a whole we get back to normal sooner. We don’t want to lose unnecessary lives in the process especially in our black and brown communities because we didn’t take the lessons learned from the testing to heart and we failed to take quick action early on in this vaccine process,” said Reith.

She notes that the recently released hotline does use translators but says there was a slow roll out of vaccination educational material outside of the English language available those communities.

Arkansas United is also pushing for every health clinic and pharmacy to track race and ethnicity of people getting the COVID-19 shots. The goal is to identify if there are any health equity gaps or barriers to care so no group is left behind.

Reith says its important the vaccine rollout is driven by data. So that those hard-to-reach communities have access to the resources, relief, and the vaccine.

Reith says the state is starting to see a glimpse vaccination data broken down by race and ethnicity and points to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Arkansas Health Center. She adds the information was through voluntary participation of some pharmacies and health clinics and although it is a step towards the right direction, it’s not enough.

“We want our state leaders and local leaders to hear that there is still major doubts in Latin-X, Marshallese and other vulnerable communities to participating in the vaccine. So, having some initial data is a start but we need it disaggregated by region and we need it to be universal,” said Reith.

She adds misinformation circulating about the vaccines and its safety are also major concerns in minority communities.

With the help of community partners and the right resources they will be able to target those minority groups so they can get the relief they need during this pandemic.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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