MI health officials prioritize equity in calls for residents to get vaccinated

click to enlarge A COVID-19 vaccine. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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A COVID-19 vaccine.

Michigan health officials are prioritizing equity as they continue to urge more residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Delta variant now accounts for the majority of infections across the country, and it's making its way through Michigan.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun — Michigan's chief medical executive and the chief deputy director for health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services — pointed out that while more than 40% of white Michiganders have been fully vaccinated, meaning it's been two weeks since their last dose, that number is much lower among the state's Black population.

Just around 30% of Black residents are protected.

"We're working with churches, neighborhood-based organizations, and social service-oriented organizations to make sure we are bringing vaccines into neighborhoods," said Khaldun. "These vaccines are available and accessible, and that's something that we have prioritized across the state."

Khaldun added that for some Black communities and communities of color, there's distrust of the health-care and medical-research systems because of historical discrimination and abuse. She said she wants people to know that these vaccines are effective and proven to be safe.

Aurora Sauceda is the public health navigator program manager for Michigan United in Flint.

She said some people don't have access or don't know how to use the internet to make a vaccine appointment, especially older residents, and others don't speak English as their primary language and have trouble accessing information about the vaccines.

She added that lack of transportation and ability to take time off work have been additional barriers for some people.

"All the people that wanted to come and get it and were anxious to get it have gotten it," said Sauceda. "Now it's reaching out to those that are still waiting for somebody to tell them something about the vaccine or still aren't fully convinced that the vaccine is a protection for them."

Health officials in Michigan also are urging parents of 12- to 15-year-olds to prioritize getting them their vaccines. So far, about a quarter of Michigan teens younger than 16 have been fully vaccinated.

Originally published July 22, 2021 by Michigan News Connection. It is republished here with permission.

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