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COVID-19 vaccination rates remain low among minorities

Indiana health officials have been noticed a concerning trend of Black and Hispanic residents being vaccinated at a lower rate.

INDIANAPOLIS — More than one million Americans are getting the COVID-19 vaccine every day.

By this summer, President Joe Biden says there will be enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans, but there's a concern about who will get those shots.  

Indiana health officials have noticed a concerning trend of Black and Hispanic residents being vaccinated at a lower rate. On Thursday, they addressed the issue, showing a great disparity in vaccinations in Indianapolis for people 70 and older: 

  • White: 32 percent 
  • Black: 19 percent 
  • Hispanic/Latino: 23 percent 
  • Asian: 36 percent 
  • Multi- or other race: 89 percent 
  • All races: 29 percent  

“Equity in public health must be a fundamental piece in emerging from the pandemic and a critical component of building a more united Indianapolis,” said Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.  

The vaccination rates don’t surprise health leaders, who say minority communities have a historical distrust due to previous medical mistreatment. That’s why the American Red Cross has created a coalition in central Indiana to reach out to minority communities, partnering with about 40 grassroots organizations.  

“Thanks largely to our amazing group of community leaders and their dedication, we made great progress in raising awareness of the safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine,” said Chad Priest, CEO of the Red Cross' Indiana region. “Now, it’s time to build on that as we focus on COVID-19.” 

The coalition is focused on creating conversations about the vaccines while also respecting the decision process. They will hold a series of in-person and virtual events, focused largely in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood, the west side of Indianapolis and the Aetna neighborhood in Gary and Brownstown. 

Carl Ellison, president and CEO of the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, says one reason that could be leading to this lower vaccine rate is that the Black population is underrepresented in the 65-and-older category. He said he expects to see the rate increase as eligibility and access to the vaccine expands.  

“The population of color is, of course, dying more and are affected more by COVID, so if we have a remedy of vaccines, we have to do everything we can over time to see if we can get that into arms that need it,” Ellison said.  

The events will include community leaders speaking about the issues, open forums and listening sessions. 

The state is also working to ensure minority communities have access and feel comfortable about getting the shot. They're working with local coalitions to get the message out and looking for clinic and pharmacy locations in minority communities to make access easier. 

The state is working with the federal pharmacy program to include locations in diverse neighborhoods. 

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