North Carolina is making the path for other states to follow in their attempts to control the spread of Covid-19 in their underserved communities. A lot of North Carolina’s underserved areas consist of African American and Latino populations who do not have the ability or means to afford testing or vaccinations and are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. According to the APM Research Lab, Indigenous, Black and Hispanic/Latino Americans were 2.7 times more likely to have died of Covid-19 than White Americans in 2020. That data tells us that for every 100,000 Americans, 168 Indigenous Americans have died, 137 African Americans, 112 Pacific Islanders, 100 Hispanics/Latinos, 97 Whites and 60 Asian Americans.
At the beginning of this month, North Carolina announced that they have seen the lowest increase in new Covid-19 cases since December 27, 2020. In order to control the pandemic, the state, counties, and health leaders have been partnering up with several outside organizations to help get vaccinations and Covid-19 testing to their rural areas.
Dr. Rasheeda Monroe, medical director of primary care pediatrics at WakeMed Hospital coordinated a team whose sole purpose was to find people in the underserved communities and schedule appointments to be vaccinated. His team found great success in their efforts; within 40 hours, they were able to schedule 700 appointments. Monroe ensured that the first appointments scheduled went to individuals who were 65 and older or individuals who came from zip codes where Covid-19 rates are high. The decrease in Covid-19 cases since December 27, 2020, is most likely due to individual efforts like Dr. Rasheeda Moore’s and others.
Healthcare representatives are aware of the anxieties and apprehensions individuals in the underserved communities are feeling about receiving the vaccine. According to the CDC data, the Latino and Black communities had the lowest vaccine recipient numbers. Dr. Martinez-Bianchi is hoping to bring those fears to a halt by concentrating on those areas in greatest need. She hopes that the more people in underserved communities see people like themselves getting vaccinated, they will be able to trust it.
North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen will be hosting a series of fireside chats to discuss the state’s Covid-19 vaccination plan. Each of her chats will be live-streamed and provide updates about the state’s response to the pandemic. Cohen will feature health experts, community leaders and others who serve the underserved communities. The hope is that these discussions will help serve to ease some of the apprehensions about the vaccination and help communicate where people can go to get the help they need during this pandemic.
Joshua Swift, Forsyth Public Health director, announced that they are working on putting together a vaccine dashboard that will break down the vaccine uptake by zip code. The plan is to update the dashboard each weekday so that North Carolinians can track the state’s administration of vaccines. The dashboard will help state occupants find and schedule a time and location to have their vaccination. The dashboard can be found on the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) website and lists the date and time it was last updated.
At the end of January, Senator Thom Tillis announced a $100 million dollar grant from FEMA to help with North Carolina’s vaccination distribution efforts. Tillis feels confident that these funds will help make the vaccination distribution possible and help North Carolina get one step closer to defeating the virus.
Up to this point, North Carolina has administered over 4 million Covid-19 vaccine doses. With over 4 million vaccinations administered, a $100 million grant from FEMA, the teaming up of county health officials with outside organizations, live fireside chats and a statewide dashboard, North Carolina is making positive steps forward in the war against Covid-19. If the total of new Covid-19 cases continues to decline by the end of April, other states might be encouraged to follow North Carolina’s lead and in time the United States can be rid of the virus.
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