Wake County Leaders Share Update on Vaccine Equity Outreach Efforts; Launch Virtual Town Hall Series

In a virtual news conference this morning, Wake County leaders highlighted efforts to reach vulnerable residents who may face barriers when it comes to accessing information about stopping the spread of COVID-19 and getting vaccinated against the virus.

“Our priority is to save lives and keep people from getting seriously ill,” said Matt Calabria, Chair of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. “Our data show African Americans are dying at a disproportionate rate, and Hispanic/Latinx residents are contracting COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate. That’s why we’re working hard to ensure equitable access to information, testing and vaccine.”

Breaking Down the Data
More than 500 people in Wake County have died from COVID-19 since March of last year. Twenty-eight percent were African American, a disproportionately high rate considering African Americans make up 21% of Wake County’s population.

The data show similar disparities when examining infection rates for the virus in Wake County. Of the 72,500 cases, 17% are Hispanic/Latinx, yet that community only makes up 10% of Wake County’s population.

Outreach Efforts
Wake County’s Public Health team closely monitors this data, which guided them to develop partnerships with groups these communities trust to share culturally sensitive messages about COVID-19.

Geographically, the 27610 ZIP code and those nearby are key focus areas because of the high number of cases and limited access to quality medical care for many residents. But efforts toward equity aren’t limited to race and ethnicity. We’re also reaching out to other historically marginalized populations at higher risk of medical concerns.

Wake County has recently worked with:

  • The Divine Nine, a group of historically Black Greek sororities and fraternities to share information about COVID-19 with their Greek communities.
     
  • Dozens of local churches to hold vaccination clinics in their own neighborhoods, where people feel safe.
     
  • Dr. Rasheeda Monroe from WakeMed Health & Hospitals and a team of African American physicians to vaccinate more than 2,000 people at 17 locations in southeast Raleigh.
     
  • El Centro Hispano to host a clinic that vaccinated 200 people in just a few hours.
     
  • UNC School of Medicine to vaccinate more than 30 elderly people with serious and persistent mental health challenges through the UNC Schizophrenia Treatment and Evaluation Program in Raleigh.

What’s Next: Virtual Town Halls
Wake County’s outreach continues Thursday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. with the first in a series of live virtual town hall meetings. The inaugural event, “Ask a Doc,” will feature four local African American physicians who will help dispel rumors and address concerns about the vaccine.

“We really want it to be an opportunity for people – especially those in Black and Brown communities – to ask questions in an open, honest and safe environment, so they can get factual answers from experts who share their cultural experiences,” said Lechelle Wardell, community outreach and engagement manager for Wake County Public Health.

We encourage you to join in the conversation. You can watch live here: bit.ly/AsktheDocTownHall. We’ll follow this event with a second town hall in the coming weeks, featuring Hispanic/Latinx physicians.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine in Wake County, including a link to our vaccination request form, visit WakeGov.com/vaccine. The Vaccine Hotline, 919-250-1515, is open 24 hours, seven days a week, and will continue to be available for requests.

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