Written by Rev. Dorothy Boulware
Published on 25th February 2021
A recent AP report said seniors in Washington D.C. are “lagging behind” in vaccination numbers, especially those who live in the poorest and “Blackest” parts of the District.
Almost every report says African Americans, as well as other minorities, are significantly behind in vaccination numbers.
JHU’s Coronavirus Resource Center reports that over 94% of Marylanders have not received even an initial dose of a vaccine. The same is also true for Baltimore residents.
Does that mean they’re refusing the vaccine in mass numbers? Or that they have been unable to access the vaccine?
The latter is much more feasible since conversations online and in person are peppered with questions about locations for the shots. Those who have them are questioned about how they got them, how long it took and whether or not there were after effects.
The challenge of getting an appointment is more than a notion. And those who do snag appointments, find themselves sharing a time slot with hundreds of fellow residents. Callers regularly hear messages that nothing is available for the next three days, or at all. And the response is the same whether from retail pharmacies or medical facilities.
” I have gotten permission from African American Senior Citizens to create an email address so I could register seniors for the vaccine, said Wanda Best, who just wanted to help as much as possible. “So far that has worked. These individuals are in their 80s, without computer access or family members in the immediate area. The anxiety these individuals were experiencing was heart wrenching. They were from zip codes 21217 and 21218.”
Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, president of the Matthew Henson Neighborhood, has also been centering his energy and that of his team on securing appointment for the seniors 80 and above.
“So many of them are certainly not on the Internet and some find it difficult to follow the instructions given on those phone calls,” Cheatham said. “We’ve been trying to get as many of them scheduled as possible.”
His concern is that distribution could have been planned differently.
“Vaccines were counted by the number of residents rather than the number of health facilities in communities,” he said. “Our residents would have been served differently with all the healthcare facilities and workers in zip codes 21217 and 21215.”
He said he didn’t know too many people who are actually refusing the vaccine, just those who are trying to get registered.
“M&T Stadium opens as a mass vaccination site on Feb. 25, but Marylanders are already experiencing a hiccup in the appointment scheduling process,” Cheatham said. “Expedient, equitable and accessible, significantly improved rollout plans must be urgently effectuated, especially in Baltimore City where there has been a great failure.”
Baltimore’s mayor, Brandon Scott, agreed with the need for efficient distribution.
“Equitably distributing the vaccine is key to ending the pandemic. Yet the State’s response and vaccination efforts have been challenging to say the least, leading to frustration and confusion,” Mayor Scott said, adding, “My administration remains committed to a coherent, collaborative, and equitable approach to the vaccination process and will continue to work hard to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our residents through a framework of equity.”
The central question about lack of desire or lack of access remains unanswered. But for those who want the vaccine, resources are available.
Online help is available on Facebook. Maryland Vaccine Hunters has as its goal, to “Get shots in arms,” and welcomes everyone interested in finding a vaccine. Stories are shared of having to travel over 400 miles, or long wait lines for folks over 70 and of crashing or freezing websites. But specific instruction is being given for successful calls. The members are not only seeking information for themselves, but are offering assistance to anyone who asks.
And the success stories abound. Many who’d been trying seemingly forever, get through quickly using the helpful hints shared on the page.