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Group, Buffalo physician provide COVID vaccine to Native Americans

There's still a huge disparity in the numbers when it comes to people of color. A local doctor and an organization are trying to get Native Americans their shot.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Herd immunity is needed in order to get things back to normal, so that means a high percentage of the population needs to get vaccinated.

However, there's still a huge disparity in the numbers when it comes to people of color. 

Now how a local doctor and organization are trying to get Native Americans their shot.

Dr. Raul Vazquez with Urban Family Practice says we tend to see such a low number of people getting vaccinated in Native American communities is because there's been a long history of mistrust with the U.S. government and health care system.

It's also due to a lack of access to any kind of health care.

"A lot of people, they don't have internet or access to transportation. I mean, those are the social determents of health, and those are the kinds of things we deal with all the time. That's why at least mobility, we have to go to them," Dr. Vazquez said.

Dr. Vazquez held a pop-up clinic at Buffalo's Native American Community Services to provide 350 doses to Native Americans eligible for the vaccine. Most of them are essential workers or immunocompromised. 

Michael Martin is the executive director of the Native American Community Services and who contacted Dr. Vazquez about doing the clinic. He gave Dr. Vazquez a list of people who might be eligible for their Pfizer dose.

Martin, JC Seneca and Dean Seneca are prominent leaders in Western New York's Native American communities.

They all got vaccinated to show everyone they can trust the vaccine.

"You got to see people like you in leadership positions. I mean, the elders are really important in terms of how information so we want to make sure we target a lot of elders. They are the ones who will be on the frontline to let their people know this is ok to take," Dr. Vazquez said.

According to New York State, more than 91 percent of Western New Yorkers vaccinated are white.

Those numbers were under four percent or lower for communities of color.

Gov. Cuomo has said he plans to use the Delavan Grider Community Center in Buffalo as a mass vaccination site starting March 3 to fix the huge disparity.

Vazquez says if we want to get back to some normalcy, about 75 percent of the community needs get vaccinated.

Everyone who got their first shot at the clinic will be back in 21 days to get their second dose. 

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