Mobile vaccine sites help keep Mississippi’s Black vaccination rate high

Published: Oct. 23, 2021 at 3:44 PM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - A steady stream of people patiently waited in socially distanced seats Saturday morning at the Good Deeds Community Center. The wait was for COVID-19 vaccines.

“Everyone else was taking one and I figured I might as well,” Orange Grove resident General Johnson said.

Seeing the demand for the shot made Johnson more comfortable with rolling up his sleeve for his first dose, despite his fear of needles.

“It’s better to have a shot than it is not to,” he said.

Other people got their final shots, like Gulfport Councilman Kenneth “Truck” Casey.

“I feel more safe getting that third shot because I engage with a lot of different people and who knows what’s going around in the air and with other different people,” Casey said.

Memorial Hospital not only set up the vaccine site but also had staff on hand for glucose tests and blood pressure checks. There was also health information about BMI, breast cancer and other medical conditions for all who walked through the door.

“It is so important because of high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and most of all sickle cell, that we get an opportunity to bring (the health fair) right into your neighborhoods so that we take all of the excuses away, ” Gulfport Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines said.

The goal of the site was the same as other health fairs in North Gulfport, to meet communities in need within walking or biking distance.

“We try to be as convenient as possible and bring it to one of our centers in the neighborhood,” Harrison County Supervisor Kent Jones said.

It’s an effort that sees the value in the community as a whole.

“If we can be more educated on how we can better take care of our people, that’s a great thing,” North Gulfport resident Alexander Lawson said.

South Mississippi leaders say they will continue fighting for vaccine and health care accessibility among lower-income neighborhoods in the area. Those efforts come as Mississippi sits above the national average in COVID-19 vaccination rates among Black residents.

Right now, the U.S. COVID-19 vaccination rate in the Black community is 33.8%, per the CDC. While in Mississippi, the vaccination rate for the state’s Black residents is 43.3%.

“We are doing better as an African American race,” Holmes-Hines said.

This comes after Mississippi trailed behind in vaccination rates among racial minorities as shots became more readily available. Now, the state’s Asian community has a 72.7% vaccination rate, Hispanics have a 37.7% vaccination rate and Whites have a 43.3% vaccination rate.

Health fair organizers credit the success in the Black community to elected officials, health care workers, religious leaders and vaccinated family members advocating for the shot.

“I just tell them to go for it because it’s better for their health,” Gulfport resident Roscoe Washington said. “People have been sick, dying by (COVID-19). So the best thing to do is to get your shot.”

And while fair organizers understand there are still vaccine skeptics across the state, they hope more people realize the potential side effects of the shot far outweigh the harms of being unvaccinated.

“I’m waiting to get the booster so it will be all over with,” Johnson said.

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