Health agencies work to ensure communities of color are vaccinated as soon as possible

Posted at 5:01 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 18:15:35-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Plans for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout beyond health care workers is a work in progress, but 41 Action News talked to health agencies who are keeping communities of color in mind.

"We have a wide representation by tribal organizations, ethnic and racial minority groups," said Dr. Lee Norman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. "Different socioeconomic groups and beyond that, faith leaders, medical bioethicists to look at it with many sets of optics."

Because more at-risk groups are likely to use mass transit, Norman said KDHE is targeting transportation hubs to spread information about the vaccine.

They are also looking into sending mobile vaccine units to communities where many people may not have a car.

"We'll be collaborating with our partners. As time goes on, as the months go on and there's more vaccine available, we'll look and see what gaps need to be filled," said Nancy Tausz, health services division director at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

Kansas vaccine distribution plan
Kansas' initial COVID-19 vaccine distribution framework, release Wednesday, gave a clearer picture of who can expect to get the vaccine at what time

The state includes people at risk for adverse health consequences in the second phase of vaccinations in late winter.

"We are definitely going to be encouraging people of color to get vaccinated, particularly because in our survey results, they showed a lot of hesitance," said Alex Kimball Williams, health equity planner at the Lawrence Douglas County Health Department.

The department has an equity impact advisory team that works throughout different sectors in the county.

They will work with churches, workplaces, and cultural centers to encourage Black and Brown communities to get vaccinated within that second phase.

"We definitely need to be relying on friends and family and those types of networking because for a lot of people of color, those are trusted sources of information," Kimball Williams said. "They do want to know who else in their particular community who is getting vaccinated."

The Wyandotte County health department is also waiting on information about who will be included in the next phase. They are set to initially receive 800 vaccines next week, pending federal approval of the Moderna vaccine.

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, issued the following statement:

"In the next phase of vaccines, some people who may be eligible include essential workers, people with preexisting conditions, and people age 65 and over. More details on the eligibility criteria for this phase and future phases are still being determined by state and federal authorities. These details will be impacted by the amount of vaccine supplies available early next year."

MO vaccine availability.jpg
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has come up with this potential plan for vaccine distribution.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is waiting to see what their second phase will include, but their advisory groups are also meeting weekly to discuss equity.

"The timeline for subsequent phases and the population groups within them will be determined once future allotment information is provided to us by Operation Warp Speed," Lisa Cox said with DHSS. "We are awaiting further guidance from our federal partners beyond 1A."

Mayor Quinton Lucas told 41 Action News earlier in December that prioritizing Black and Brown communities is important for him because many folks don't have access to stable healthcare.

"I have grave concerns with the fact that if there’s a vaccine that’s rolled out, it’s going to go to the folks that know the institutions. Folks like me who may be able to have that physician relationship and call in, but what about everybody else?" Lucas said.

County health departments are still waiting for information about how many doses they will receive.

Federal approval of the Moderna vaccine could come on Thursday.