Vaccine equity remains a priority as a racial divide in America widens once again –– this time amid a surge and with a new variant.
"We have to overcome the naysayers all over again," Deneen Richmond, leader of the Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center in Prince George County, Maryland, told The Washington Post. "It's like, 'Hit replay, repeat.' That is what we're going to need to do with the booster."
Health experts like Richmond say the once-narrowing vaccine gap between Black and white Americans is widening again as officials push booster doses amid the latest Omicron variant surge.
Overcoming a generational mistrust of the American medical system, medical racism, lack of access, health advocates got vaccine doses to Black communities across the country. Officials relied on church leaders, barbershops, salons, and local health activists to combat rampant misinformation and address the lacking vaccine distribution infrastructure to get doses to Black Americans –– and it worked.
According to The Post, one reason for the disparity seen now may be due to the initial lag of Black Americans getting their first two shots, since you aren't eligible for a booster dose until six months after your second shot.
Without the third dose, experts fear the most vulnerable communities –– which have already been disproportionately devastated by the pandemic –– will not have enough protection.
"If people don't get boosted," Richmond said. "our healthcare system is going to be overwhelmed."
There are some positive predictions among researchers, who anticipate the gap will close once again –– but not without the work of advocates and community partners.
"It is almost like we're at square one again," said Katrina Randolph, a member of the network of barbers and salon owners who trained to be a certified community health worker through a program at the University of Maryland.
Randolph estimates about 90 percent of her regular clients are vaccinated –– many of whom she convinced –– yet only a fraction have gotten their booster. To combat misinformation, Randolph encourages clients to listen to the science and remind them without vaccines, hair appointments won't be safe.
With the newest wave of Covid-19 cases and grim projections about the winter months ahead, health advocates like Randolph and Richmond are digging in once again to get our communities protected with booster shots.
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