COVID-19 vaccines have been available in Ohio for a couple of months now, with more than 2 million people having started the process, and that number is increasing every day.
But data shows some groups of people are being left behind, particularly Black people and those of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.
Barriers to access and medical mistrust are two huge reasons Ohio is seeing discrepancies in vaccination numbers for people of color.
But officials are hoping mass vaccination sites like the Wolstein Center in downtown Cleveland, mobile outreach, and encouragement from people who work in underserved communities reverse the trend and make those numbers increase.
News 5 spoke with those among the first group of people with appointments at the Wolstein Center, including Esther Thomas, who told us why she got vaccinated.
“I believe in science and I think this is how we rebound as a community and a country,” Thomas said.
But even though she believes, she said some of her friends don’t.
“I encourage them to review multiple sources of information, and think about what we've all gone through over this last year,” Thomas said.
Since December, over 2.4 million Ohioans have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Among the state’s white population nearly 21% (1,976,279) have gotten the shot, but just 10% (158,520) of the Black community have, and only 8% of Hispanic or Latino community have been immunized (36,956).
We’re seeing similar gaps in many Northeast Ohio counties like Lorain, Summit, Lake, and Cuyahoga — where just over 23% (183,932) of the white population have been vaccinated compared to just under 10% of Black people (37,339).
“This clinic is located here at CSU because it's in close proximity to many minority residents,” Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said.
But even though the Wolstein Center was chosen to serve those residents, Budish said data from the state shows that folks just aren’t signing up.
“They're seeing that people of color, specifically Black and brown people, are registering at a much lower rate than white people. That has to change,” Budish said.
So how does it change?
Budish said they’re arranging free transportation to the Wolstein Center and working on bringing mobile clinics into underserved communities to remove barriers to access, but that’s only part of the problem.
“The second is trust. Lots of people, particularly Black and brown people, don't trust the government and they don't trust the vaccines,” Budish said.
The county is working with community partners to help answer questions about the vaccine, something Thomas said is vital.
“Outreach. Talking to people and encouraging our friends, providing them with information,” Thomas said.
Also, seeing other people who look like them give the vaccine the seal of approval, like Orlando Holly, who got his first dose of the vaccine at the Wolstein Center.
“Oh, it was smooth sailing going inside to get the shot. Everything is in order. In and out. No waiting, and everybody is nice, very nice,” Holly said.
Charles Boone also received his first shot there.
“I think my experience today was great. I suggest that everybody should get a Corona shot,” Boone said.
A full breakdown of Ohio’s vaccination demographics can be found on the state's vaccination dashboard.
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