African Americans combat transformation barriers to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Updated: Feb. 26, 2021 at 4:17 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - In our Next 400 series our team has shared stories surrounding reasons why people of color specifically African Americans are having a tough time trusting the vaccine process.

But there are African Americans who are putting their mistrust of the medical system aside but still cannot get their hands on a vaccine.

“I was not surprised, but I was extremely disappointed” said Shana Roberts with Famicos.

Transportation is a major barrier standing in the way of many African Americans 65 and up from getting the vaccine.

Shana Roberts believes officials dropped the ball when it came to how the vaccine was rolled out

“That process I don’t believe was really thought through its obvious because we’re here trying to scramble and figure out how to make it happen”

According to the Ohio department of health a little more than 77 thousand African Americans have been given the COVID-19 vaccine compared to the more than million white patients.

In Cuyahoga County, only 17 thousand African Americans have received a single dose, raising the question, is this another case of health inequity?

“It wasn’t a surprise, of course they want the limit to be there so they put a cap on it” said Chanita Willams “I guess because they know people don’t have access live everyone else”.

Roberts and her co-worker Chanita Willams put their heads together and are now helping transport seniors to get the vaccine with the help of Famicos.

Research shows about 1.9 million seniors, 65 or older here in the U.S. , are completely or mostly homebound, while another 5.3 million have limitations that make it hard to leave their homes.

“It shows the importance, the need for us to provide transportation for these residents” said Roberts “there should be no reason whatsoever that anybody passes away because they’re not able to get the vaccine”.

The numbers pushed Willams and Roberts to extend their reach.

“We meet today with Oak Street Health and hopefully coordinate something with their clinics” said Roberts “also working with the Cleveland City Department of Health and trying to arrange transportation and accessibility”.

Sheila Parnther is also doing her part to help seniors, with the help of Cooper’s transportation, she’s giving free rides to those in need.

“So many people are down on their luck, and so many family members and friends have had COVID-19″ said Parnther “some of them have died and were trying to reach out and help the community to stop the spread”.

In just a few weeks Parnther has been all over the south east side of Cleveland and has given rides to more than 50 people to get their vaccine.

“We just want to be able to help, there’ s a lot of people who don’t have transportation” said Parnther.

“You have to love the community, and love people in order to get this work done” said Willams.

As the weeks go by more people become eligible for the vaccine, making it even harder for African American seniors to get their dose.

Without more transportation options the gap between minorities and the white majority will continue to grow.

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