JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – The number of African Americans in Mississippi who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus has risen slightly in the past 10 days, although overall numbers of Black residents getting vaccinations are still lagging far behind white Mississippians.
Around 20% of all of those in the state who have now received the vaccine are Black, according to the Department of Health. More than 70% are white.
On Feb. 2, only 17% of all residents that had been vaccinated in Mississippi were Black.
The Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity created a survey for Black residents so officials can better understand some of the barriers to access within communities, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said.
“There’s a lot of Black folks who don’t trust (the vaccine), and I don’t think it’s a surprise,” Dobbs said Friday during a virtual panel conducted by historically Black Tougaloo College. “But I think we need to make sure we really do everything we can to provide that reassurance, answer those questions and understand, ‘What are those foundational issues that lead to that lack of trust?’ ”
Dobbs said one move that has been working is connecting with community leaders in order to educate residents about the vaccine. In the Black community, church leaders have been the most influential in building trust in the COVID-19 vaccine, according to survey results.
“Several Black churches have done really innovative work as far as getting people who don’t have internet access, getting their information and signing up for them by getting volunteers within their congregations,” Dobbs said. “It’s really been a beautiful thing to watch.”
Community health centers have also been “a remarkable mechanism to reach underserved communities,” Dobbs said. More 70% of all people receiving coronavirus vaccinations at federally qualified community health centers and other clinics have been Black, he said.
More than 306,900 people in Mississippi have now received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine and some 107,275 have received the first and second dose, according to data from the State Department of Health.
The state Health Department reported Friday that Mississippi had 984 new confirmed cases of the virus as of Thursday evening. The department also reported 39 deaths Friday, 11 of which occurred between Feb. 5 and Thursday and 28 of them between Feb. 5 and Feb. 11. The state has reported more than 285,000 cases of the virus and 6,429 related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
People eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine can make an appointment at COVIDvaccine.umc.edu or by calling the COVID-19 call center at 1-877-978-6453.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
Leah Willingham is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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