Coronavirus News: Long Island health officials focus COVID-19 vaccine efforts in minority communities

COVID-19 News and Information
ROOSEVELT, Long Island (WABC) -- A majority of the deaths from COVID-19 have been in minority communities which is why health officials on Long Island are focusing their vaccination efforts in areas with higher minority populations.

On Wednesday, hundreds of people had appointments to get the coronavirus vaccine at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roosevelt.

"These are hard-hit communities and high need communities," Northwell Health's Senior Vice President of Community and Population Health Dr. Debbie Salas-Lopez said.

"Black and brown people in this community were very eager to receive the vaccine," Memorial Presbyterian Church's Rev. Scott Williams said.

Getting the vaccine into minority communities has its challenges.

For one, a major distributor of the vaccine is or will be the large chain pharmacies that can be few and far between in low-income, minority neighborhoods.

An analysis by ABC News found that, in neighborhoods where the median household income is $40,000 or less, pharmacy chains make up only 36% of all drugstores compared to 57% in neighborhoods where the median household income is more than $80,000.

"The distribution system for the vaccine has to be broad, wide and community based, churches, schools, community facilities," President and CEO of the National Urban League Marc Morial said.

Another challenge is there seems to be among the minority population a higher sense of hesitancy to get the vaccine.

Northwell Health said only 22% of its Black workforce had gotten the vaccine.

"That's an area where we're spending even more time and this is where we engage," Northwell Health's Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer Joe Moscola said.

Officials have been drawing the public's attention to people like Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a Black woman who helped study and approve the Moderna vaccine.

"It's important that we communicate that there have been people of color involved in the process," Morial said.

North Baldwin resident Janice Martin decided to get the vaccine in Roosevelt despite being on the fence initially.

"It seems like it's affecting so many people maybe I should go ahead and get this," Martin said.

Freeport resident Ernie Kight said it doesn't matter to him, just get it done.

"Freeport we have a lot of elderly, we have a lot of Hispanic, listen, we need to get this done," Kight said.

"I'm 84 and that's why I'm here. I want to live," vaccine recipient Betty Obiajulu said.

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