SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - At the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, health experts across the country wanted to pay close attention to minority groups, especially since an overwhelming number of people of color were dying from the virus. Mistrust in past government health experiences and the fear of the unknown made vaccinating minorities difficult.
During the final days of vaccine distribution at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds in Shreveport, many Louisianans lined up for the shot, including Melinda Nash. She was receiving her second dose.
“I thought I needed to come down and get it because I do have other health issues and I didn’t want to get COVID,” she said.
Five months into the vaccine process, Nash, like many people across the country, decided to take the “wait and see” approach.
“I procrastinated because I didn’t know enough about the medicine,” said Nash. “I wanted to wait a little while and see how other people would react to it.”
Dr. John Vanchiere with LSU Health Shreveport has been leading distribution of the vaccine across the ArkLaTex.
“A month, 30 percent of the people we were vaccinating were African American. Now, that number is better. We’re over 40 percent African American first-time doses in the month of April,” he said.
Dr. Vanchiere says it has been an ongoing process to increase the number of vaccinations in minority groups, but April’s numbers have been encouraging.
“I think part of it is our outreach. We’ve been to some of the predominantly African American churches in the community. I think another part is the early hesitation of a lot of folks and maybe mistrust. We’ve built a little trust back. I think folks now are seeing we’re at the point where millions of people have gotten doses and it’s been safe,” he said.
Health experts have now shifted the focus to the next phase of vaccine distribution, going directly to the people. Many people can now get doses from local pharmacies, community centers, and churches.
“We’ve known since early in the pandemic that people of color are more susceptible to severe disease from COVID-19 and are more likely to die,” the doctor said.
In taking a closer look at the numbers, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) reports three times as many African Americans were likely to die from COVID-19 than someone in the ArkLaTex region who was white. Nash says she wanted to avoid being a statistic, which is why she waited long enough and got her shots.
“It’s a relief. I’m done,” she said.