Northern Virginia campaign underway to vaccinate underserved communities

A push is underway in northern Virginia to get minorities and people in underserved communities vaccinated.

More than 100 non-profits are now working together to expand accessibility and outreach.

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Neighborhood Health is one of those non-profits. They’ve administered over 43,000 vaccines and of that number 85% went to people of color.

"We started going outside of the community, going to low income housing sites and vaccinating outside apartments. We try to find people and make it as easy for them as possible," Dr. Basim Khan, Executive Director of Neighborhood Health said.

Dr. Khan says one of the key parts of getting people in underserved communities vaccinated is working with trusted community leaders like pastors, coaches and even primary care physicians.

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"Trust is critical because there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Sometimes people don’t know what to think so when they see others around them getting vaccinated and they’re doing ok, when they see people who they trust advise them to get the vaccine, it makes them much more likely to get the vaccine," Dr. Khan said.

52.4% of people 12 and older in Virginia half received at least one dose of the vaccine. 41.5% are fully vaccinated. While Virginia, does give numbers of vaccines administered by race and ethnicity it does not give percentages which makes it hard to tell just how inequitable distribution has been.  

Dr. Khan says the bulk of the work is still ahead.

"I think we made good progress but I think there’s a long way to go. This last part is going to take much more effort than what proceeded us. People were willing to get the vaccine so all you had to do was make it available and people would show up but now you actually have to find people who haven’t gotten vaccinated you have to engage with them in conversations and that’s really difficult," he said.

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Officials say with states reopening and restrictions being eased it’s more important now more than ever to get the shot.

"Numbers have come down and they’ve come down because of the vaccine. There might be some people who think, ‘well the risk is now lower. I don’t  need to get vaccinated.’ My message is that, it’s because of vaccination that the risk is lower and it’s important that you protect yourself because you just do not want to take that risk," Dr. Khan said.