Local health centers hope to get more COVID-19 vaccine doses for under served communities

In Iowa, only once percent of those vaccinated are Black people
Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 8:44 PM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Out of all Iowans who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 thus far, the state reports only one percent have been Black and just over 1.4 percent are Hispanic/Latino.

Elly Steffen, the chief operating officer at Eastern Iowa Health Center in Cedar Rapids, said that has to do, in part, with the tiers in which people have been divided into, but she said it also has to do with concerns regarding vaccine safety.

“We are working to make sure that we are sending a consistent message and communicating to our patients that it is safe and they recommend they get the vaccine,” she explained.

Steffen said it also has to do with how complicated it can be to reach minority and under served communities.

“It takes an extra effort to reach those vulnerable populations with language barriers and transportation barriers and other social determents of health impacting them,” she mentioned.

The chief operating officer said that is why it is important health centers, which work with under served communities on a daily basis, receive appropriate amounts of the vaccine.

U.S. Congresswoman Ashley Hinson is asking the Biden administration to include the state’s health centers in its vaccination distribution plan. Fellow Republican representatives Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Randy Feenstra, and Democratic Congresswoman Cindy Axne joined Hinson in her efforts.

Congresswoman Hinson spent an hour on Wednesday touring Crescent Community Health Center in Dubuque.

Gary Collins, the center’s chief executive officer, said handing more vaccines to health centers across the state would make a big difference.

“About four percent of our population that visits Crescent each year are Pacific Islanders, about just under ten percent are Hispanic/Latinos and 17.1 percent are Black African American,” Collins recalled. “Especially, if we could be one of those sites selected, I think we will even make greater in-roads on the vaccine fronts along those same percentages if not better.”

Just like Eastern Iowa Health Center in Cedar Rapids, Collins said his center in Dubuque is also working on targeted messaging.

“What we have tried to do is put some guidance out on our website including a Q and A with our chief medical officer to talk about the advantages of getting the COVID vaccine,” he said. “But it is a personal decision whether to get the vaccine or not; our goal is to get as many out as possible.”

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