KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Teesha Miller worked in public health for 20 years, and it recently included helping her community get the COVID-19 vaccination.
"That’s the pathway forward, is for us to continually open the door and have those conversations," Miller said.
The vaccination became top of mind in her personal life as well after her husband Bradford's cancer diagnosis in spring 2020.
"That's when I really began to take note because, of course, you have a loved one experiencing a health crisis and there's this potentially deadly virus out there," Miller said.
Her efforts to inform her community also extended to her own family, especially after her husband passed away in May 2020.
"I signed up for and received the Pfizer vaccine with my elderly parents and my oldest son," Miller said. "And had a very spirited conversation with our two younger children. They were absolutely against me being vaccinated and I told them, I'm your lone surviving parent and I will do whatever i need to do to ensure I'm here to take care of you."
She felt comfortable with it, she said, because she was already familiar with mRNA because of fertility treatments she and her husband experienced in the past.
She said her two youngest children, in their 20s, are now more open to finding out more information about the vaccine.
Health departments and clinics metro-wide are seeing vaccine saturation, meaning those who wanted the vaccine got it and the rest are still hesitant or refuse to get it.
Some, like the Wyandotte County health department, have started offering incentives to get people more interested or motivated.
A spokesperson for the Wyandotte County health department said they've heard from people who said the incentives gave them a push to get vaccinated. Some of the incentives include a season pass to Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun, passes to Dave and Buster's, and a chance to win a $500 Visa gift card.
"What we know from focus groups, surveys, is that people trust people they know," Dr. Bechara Choucair, White House vaccination coordinator, said. "We want to make sure people are able to talk to people they trust in their communities, whether it's faith-based leaders, being able to talk to their doctors, their nurses."
Choucair said the U.S. won't meet the White House's goal of 70 percent of all adults having at least one vaccination by July 4 - but they're on track.
"We have more than 175 million people with at least one dose and more than 150 million people fully vaccinated," Choucair said. "And when you look at 30 years of age and older, 70 percent of those folks have been vaccinated."
Miller said she understands why people, especially communities of color, are still hesitant. She says she wants people to see her passion for the issue as someone who’s not in the medical field.
"For those of us who have access to well-trusted medical professionals we can reach out to, I think it's important to use the voice to say - I'm not saying be like me or follow me - there are resources that you can reach out to, to make a decision for yourself," Miller said.