Mass Vaccination Events Speed Distribution, But Don't Help With Equity

Feb 9, 2021
Originally published on February 9, 2021 1:38 pm

Updated at 1:30 p.m.

Mass vaccination events, like the recent untaking at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, hasten distribution but also come with a significant flaw. Deputy Health Secretary Benjamin Money says the events pose challenges for the state's mission of equitable distribution.

“You've got to go; you've got to have a car to get there,” Money said. “And guess what, you got to have gas in that car.”

Money said transport needs plus the process of navigating a complex website or even waiting on a phone line can lead to inequity. And he says the data shows that imbalance. Of the North Carolinians who have received their first dose of the vaccine, 79% are white, and 98% are non-Hispanic. According to U.S. Census data, 71% of residents are white and 10% are Hispanic or Latino. 

In a recent virtual chat with State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, Reverend William Barber challenged the state to line up churches as vaccination sites to help balance those inequities. Money says the state is encouraging local health departments and providers to partner with community organizations like churches.

 

Wake-Med and the Wake County Health Department joined with 16 churches and a community center for vaccination events this weekend targeting Black and Latino seniors. Five-hundred people got shots at the historically African American St. Matthew Baptist church.

The first two people to be vaccinated there Saturday morning were Pastor Ronald Avery and his wife Addie Avery. Jeff Brown, the chairman of the Deacon Board at St. Matthew Baptist Church, said their event was a success, even though registering online was hard for some people.

“What made this so easy for them, not only because they had not been to church in a while, but the feeling they were coming home, and able to get the vaccination,” said Brown. 

Brown says this sort of set up “works well,” because they made time and space to help those who could not register online.

Organizers say they had to turn away at least 100 people who just showed up, hoping to get a last-minute appointment.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.