Minority Newport Residents Are Reluctant To Get A COVID Vaccine, Which Is Why


NEWPORT – For members of the city’s Black and Hispanic communities, it’s not so much accessibility that is an issue when it comes to the COVID vaccine.

It is mistrust.

“The problem we see with vaccinations is not access, but rather around the history of medical racism and vaccine mistrustSaid Rex LeBeau, Strategy Specialist at the Newport Health Equity Zone, a coalition that takes a resident-centered approach to improving community health.

LeBeau explained medical racism as “racism that occurs in the medical setting.”

Ineida Rocha of the Rhode Island Department of Health was on hand for a COVID vaccination clinic at Miantonomi Park in Newport on July 28.

“That’s it, from the separate hospitals, to experiments on blacks like Tuskegee, to the lingering disparities we see today,” LeBeau said. “For example, today black people are more likely to die in childbirth due to systemic discrimination.”

The United States Public Health Service Tuskegee Syphilis Study in 1932, there were initially 600 black men, some with syphilis. Ultimately deemed unethical, the CDC Reports that in 1943, even when penicillin was the treatment of choice for syphilis and became widely available, study participants were not offered treatment.

“There (are) also pervasive myths that doctors believe in, such as black people are not as likely to experience pain or have thicker skin,” LeBeau explained. “So when black people say they don’t trust the vaccine, it’s that story along with horrific personal experiences that contribute to it. Misinformation is also a problem. But the underlying problem is racism.

Under-represented minority patients:U.S. hospitals struggle to reduce health disparities

McKee visits vaccine cold spot in Newport

Governor Dan McKee visited Newport on July 28, one of the “cold spots” he aims to infiltrate across the state. Of all cities in Rhode Island, Newport has one of the lowest vaccination rates, with 50.1% of the population fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the Rhode Island Department of Health available on Sunday.

In the North End neighborhood last week, McKee knocked on some doors to let it be known that a state-run pop-up vaccination clinic was open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Miantonomi Park.

Governor Dan McKee speaks at a COVID vaccination clinic at Miantonomi Park in Newport on July 28.  Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano looks on.

When asked why the park was chosen as the location for the Contextual Vaccination Clinic, McKee said, “I’m not sure.” State officials just wanted to “get to Newport … we want to get people vaccinated,” he said.

Miantonomi Park is located in an area of ​​Newport with a historic concentration of people of color. The North End contains twice the percentage of Blacks and Latinxes of the rest of Newport, according to data provided to the Daily News of the HEZ.

Joseph Wendelken, information officer at RIDOH, said in an email on July 29 that Miantonomi Park was selected “because it is adjacent to several residential complexes and in the middle of a low-rate area. vaccination ”.

“We weren’t aware of the location choice,” City Manager Joe Nicholson said Thursday. “I’m going to assume (the state chose Miantonomi Park because of) the high concentration of families.”

Natalie Harris, a HEZ community health worker, sat at a picnic table in Miantonomi Park as McKee delivered remarks on July 28.

Harris couldn’t say for sure why state officials chose the North End location as the site for a pop-up vaccination clinic, but thought “they want to raise awareness in the BIPOC community.”

“The park is one of the things that brings the community together,” said Harris, who has lived in the North End community for over 30 years.

Black residents of Rhode Island get vaccinated at lower rate

According to the latest RIDOH data available on Sunday, 54% of whites statewide are fully vaccinated, compared to 43% of blacks in Rhode Island. The Daily News asked McKee why the percentage is lower for blacks and if state officials are concerned.

“I don’t think it was a lack of effort,” McKee said as he got into his car after knocking on doors in the North End. “The hesitation is there.

The Daily News asked for statistics on vaccination rates by race at the municipal level. Wendelken said the state does not have such data.

“Race / ethnicity is not a mandatory area, so when we start digging into and looking at small numbers the data is less reliable,” Wendelken wrote in an email. “For example, there are more people of unknown race in Newport than known black / African American people vaccinated. So a percentage will not be very revealing or precise.

Wendelken said 26 people received injections at the Miantonomi Park pop-up clinic during the three hours of operation.

The Daily News asked Nicholson if it was a problem to vaccinate members of the BIPOC community in Newport.

“We had the clinic at the Gateway Center (in April) which in my opinion was, in all respects, a resounding success… It was at the start of the vaccine rollout,” he said.

Seidy Jolly and Yoli Macias help run a pop-up vaccination clinic at the Gateway Center in Newport, RI on Wednesday, April 21, 2021.

This pop-up vaccination clinic aimed to vaccinate Latinx, BIPOC and community members who may have difficulty getting vaccinated in other locations.

Tom Shevlin, communications manager for Newport, said RIDOH City’s final allocation for the April BIPOC clinic was 375 doses, “which reflected the number of appointments scheduled in the days leading up to the clinic. “.

Some minorities are reluctant to be vaccinated against COVID

City Councilor Elizabeth Fuerte said there were certainly no excuses, with great availability of vaccination clinics, especially with the last clinic in Miantonomi Park. The Daily News asked Fuerte if it had been a problem to have members of the BIPOC community vaccinated.

“I know for sure (this has been with) the Spanish speaking population, and it has a lot to do with the confidence and faith in the vaccine… And especially a lot of our older Spanish speaking population, they have had some resistance,” says Fuerte.

She spoke of her own mother’s fears and skepticism. “Many of his fellow practitioners who are over 70 also had the same resistance,” Fuerte said. Some people hesitate because they think the vaccine came “too early”.

Connection Latina Newport ran an immunization clinic at its Broadway location that was open to everyone, but primarily catered to the Hispanic community.

“We felt the community was more likely to come to us because they are comfortable with us,” said Rebekah Gomez, Executive Director of Conexión Latina Newport. Clinics in other places – large and anonymous with a uniformed and heavy National Guard presence – can be “very intimidating,” Gomez said.

Ineida Rocha with RIDOH, who visits high density communities to educate people about the vaccine, said she saw “a lot of hesitation”, mainly from members of the BIPOC community.

“It’s the lack of confidence,” Rocha said. “Past traumas.

But there is more.

“The awareness happened towards the end,” Fuerte said. “Suddenly the city is now heavily involved (with) focusing on the non-English speaking community and BIPOC, and we should have seen this interaction since the start of the pandemic. “

Yes, there has been some awareness, Fuerte said. But the data influenced its strength; and problems should not precede awareness.

“It just made people suspicious,” Fuerte said. “Are you focusing on us now?” Why?”

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