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Health, Science, Environment

Madison County Mobile Sites Bring COVID Vaccine To Majority Black Areas

The Madison County Health Department is working to get more Black residents vaccinated against COVID-19 by bringing vaccine sites directly to their communities.
David Kovaluk
/
St. Louis Public Radio
The Madison County Health Department is working to get more Black residents vaccinated against COVID-19 by bringing vaccine sites directly to their communities.

MADISON — About 200 people received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday as part of a new effort to bring the vaccinations directly to Black residents in Madison County.

The Madison County Health Department is partnering with churches, local NAACP chapters and other community organizations to schedule appointments for mobile vaccine sites.

“The health department is using this as a pilot site,” said Roshelle Williams-Gardner, who helped coordinate Monday’s event at the Mt. Nebo Missionary Baptist Church complex. “The response that we got shows that it is a service that the people actually wanted in our community.”

Of those who were vaccinated on Monday, the overwhelming majority live in the Madison-Venice area, Williams-Gardner said.

Monday’s event was the first in a series of mobile vaccination sites that Madison County will be conducting, said Amy Yeager, a spokesperson with the health department. She said the county plans to have a similar event every week starting next Monday and will be in places like Madison and Alton.

“We know that the African American, elderly population does have trust issues, mobility issues and key health disparities that put them at higher risk,” she said.

Yeager said the partnership between the county health department and local churches and other Black organizations came as each was asking the other what more they could do to support the local vaccine rollout.

Yeager stressed that all vaccinations are by appointment only and will be scheduled by the local organizations.

“We gave them the scheduler because they know their community,” she said. “They know who really needs this.”

Williams-Gardner explained she and fellow coordinator Yolanda Crochrell fielded many phone calls from local residents seeking vaccinations after their church, Mt. Nebo, spread the word that residents 65 and older could be vaccinated.

“There are so many people of color in this area that were being underserved,” Crochrell said. “Our seniors are not able to, or don’t have access to a computer, or even know how to work the system to be able to [get an appointment.]”

She said another important aspect of Monday’s event is that it was hosted at a well-known location in the community that people didn’t need to travel far to reach.

“Transportation is the biggest setback for our seniors,” Crochrell said. “Since Mt. Nebo is in the middle of the city, it makes it more accessible.”

Crochrell and Williams-Gardner were encouraged to see so many older Black residents excited to sign up to get the vaccine after seeing initial hesitancy to it.

“We still have people calling,” Crochrell said. “We’ve had maybe one or two people change their minds, but for those one or two people, five more wanted it.”

Crochrell attributed the strong turnout in Madison and Venice to messaging from religious leaders.

“In the Black community, the church is a trusted vessel,” she said. “If the leadership of the church is endorsing a vaccine like such, then people of color will be more likely to receive it.”

Williams-Gardner added many Black families see the COVID-19 vaccine as a path back to normalcy.

“People have not been able to visit with their grandchildren, hug their grandchildren,” Williams-Gardner said. “If this vaccine works like it’s supposed to, then we put families back together again.”

Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid

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