Roanoke Valley health officials working to ensure vaccine equity

Roanoke Valley health officials are working to make sure access to the COVID-19 vaccine is equal for all people.
Numerous COVID-19 vaccination clinics are underway each week across the area. However, there isn’t equal access for everyone to get the vaccine yet, according to Dr. Cynthia Morrow the Director of the Health District.
“Under no circumstances would I say that we have achieved equity. It’s going to be a long, intentional process. A process that is going to require partnerships to reach the right populations and folks to trust us,” Morrow said.
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The state is now tracking ethnicity when it comes to the vaccine. VDH reports nearly 200,000 Virginians of color have gotten the vaccine, compared to 210,000 white people who got the shot. There are about 120,000 vaccinations that ethnicity is not reported.
However, the state is not reporting the breakdown of numbers to localities, so health officials locally don’t know the full scope of the issue.
Dr. Morrow is working with Carilion and the city to find out what issues are stopping people of color from registering or getting the vaccine.
She says from there, they will create strategies to address the problem.
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Carilion Clinic is trying to do its part too. The clinic hired a new diversity officer to help with community outreach and diversity internally in the health system.
Dr. Nathaniel L. Bishop, the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for Carilion said a priority in his new role is to focus on equal access to the vaccine for the community.
“It’s all about the importance of relationship and partnership. I’m pleased with the work in place, and what the city of Roanoke and the department of health in all the regions are doing. There is really great work being done to distribute the vaccine,” Bishop said.
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Dr. Bishop said he is already in the process of having conversations with community leaders to listen to what the problems with access are and come up with solutions.
He’s also working with doctors to help educate those skeptical the vaccine is safe.

Donald Wolfe

Donald’s writings have appeared in HuffPost, Washington Examiner, The Saturday Evening Post, and The Virginian-Pilot, among other publications. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia. He is the Virginian Tribune's Publisher.

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