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COVID vaccine hesitancy persists in communities of color

On Thursday, New York State released data reporting, by comparison, COVID-19 vaccination demographic data looking at race and ethnicity.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It's been three months since the first COVID vaccine was first available, and since then two other vaccines have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

However, equitable distribution remains a serious issue, especially in communities of color. 

Dr. Raul Vazquez is a family medicine doctor and CEO of Urban Family Practice on Buffalo's West Side. Dr. Vazquez has been working in the same part of the community, treating predominately Black and Brown patients for 30 years.

He says a lot more work needs to be done in order to ensure that more people get vaccinated. 

"In this particular fight with COVID, in terms of vaccinations, we're not at the table," he says.

On Thursday, New York State released updated data breaking down statewide COVID-19 vaccination demographics by race and ethnicity. By majority, more Caucasians have received at least one vaccine dose compared to Blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. 

Why is this?

Dr. Vazquez says, a major reason has to do with the lack of primary care, specifically in communities of color.

"We always talk about lack of primary care, but we really never incentivize or created a model for it to flourish," he says. "The primary care doctors aren't being engaged in the vaccination process, remember they manage a lot of lives."

Other reasons?

Lack of trust and empathy. Those are two things, Dr. Vazquez says, that are crucial when it comes to establishing and executing good health care.

"Without trust it's very difficult to ask people to do something that they don't understand or are not used to doing. And for many Black and Brown people, going to the doctor is not happening enough," Vazquez says.

So, what needs to happen to help counter hesitancy and boost confidence when it comes to COVID vaccines?

Dr. Vazquez says, "education is really important. It's not just vaccinating people."

Accessibility, he says is also important. However, it doesn't matter how many places offer the vaccine, if people lack the confidence, education and trust to take it not much will change. 

"Community centers, while they are good, the health care disparities are still not being changed by them," he said.


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