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With COVID-19 vaccines sitting idle in minority communities, leaders try to inspire

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Posted at 4:48 PM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 18:35:31-05

CLEVELAND — While many are anxiously awaiting their chance to get a COVID-19 vaccine, available doses in Northeast Ohio are not getting into the arms of those who are eligible.

As he signed his paperwork, Al Grimes thought about all those unused vaccines.

"As a community leader, I have an obligation to do this," Grimes said.

Grimes, with the Cuyahoga County Fatherhood Initative, stopped by the NEON Health Center on Cleveland’s southeast side Tuesday.

"I tell dads all the time you can't be a good father unless you're a healthy father," Grimes said.

Grimes wanted to practice what he preaches and got his first COVID-19 vaccine on camera to share this message.

"If it's available to you, and when it's available to you, go get the COVID-19 vaccine," said Grimes.

Grimes, who's respected and well-known in the community, is hoping to inspire other people of color to get the shot.

"Let the community know how vital it is to get this vaccine," said Grimes.

According to an analysis of vaccination rates by KHM, which used data from state health departments, white Ohioans are getting vaccinated at a pace that's more than double the rate of their Black counterparts.

"We've panicked for the last year or more and we need to pull ourselves together," said Dr. Anita Watson.

Watson, the medical director at NEON, said misinformation about the vaccine is partly why we're seeing this disparity.

"Maybe some folks feel the government is against them,” Watson said.

The other big reason is distrust after medical experiments on people of color went awry decades ago.

"At this point in time, we have to put that aside for the benefit of our community now,” Grimes said.

Right now, NEON has the capability to vaccinate up to 200 people per week, but they're only getting needles into 90 arms.

"It's a concern that I think all of the health centers have if they're having some of the vaccine left over,” Watson said.

Grimes is not sitting back as vaccines sit idle.

He's now calling on all leaders in minority communities to follow his lead, "whether you're a teacher, whether you're a principal, whether you're a businessman, whether you're a minister."