MIAMI – As the COVID-19 vaccination rate for Black residents continues to lag behind, doctors are working on the frontlines to close that gap and get more shots in arms in South Florida.
“Sometimes I am even shocked that the death in the family from coronavirus doesn’t sway the rest of the family to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Cheryl Holder, associate dean for diversity, equity, inclusivity, and community initiatives at Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.
Holder has been working with local faith leaders to increase the vaccination rate in South Florida’s Black communities.
She works with Keeping the Faith to Fight COVID 19, collaborating with churches, training ministers and going to church sites to administer vaccines.
“It didn’t happen overnight that the population was resistant to vaccines,” Holder said.
Deeper cultural issues persist, she explains, including the pandemic exasperating existing health disparities.
“So they are more vulnerable to misinformation,” Holder said.
On this day, Dr. Dwight Reynolds’ COVID-19 vaccine strike force is administering vaccines at Port Miami for crew members of cruise lines and cargo ships. He says more tailored messaging for South Florida’s black community is needed.
“The problem now is getting vaccines into arms,” said Reynolds, who is board-certified in emergency medicine. “It takes a lot of effort. It takes a one-on-one.”
They are life-critical conversations.
Heads of unions representing some of Miami-Dade County Public School workers said all of their members who have died over the past month were Black and unvaccinated.
“Why is it destroying the African American community?” asks Phyllis Leflore, president of the AFSCME Local 1184. “With African Americans, we have to make them understand this is serious. The science speaks that if you are vaccinated you have a chance of living.”
Black Floridians account for 17% of the population, 14% of COVID-19 cases and 16.5% of deaths connected to COVID across Florida, state health department data shows.
And only 30% of the eligible Black population is vaccinated, by far the lowest racial group. Overall, 69% of eligible Floridians have received at least one shot.
According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis, across a group of 40 states, the percent of white people who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose (50%) was roughly 1.3 times higher than the rate for black people (40%) and 1.1 times higher than the rate for Hispanic people (45%) as of Aug. 16.
Monika Carr got the vaccine at a Liberty City pop-up site on Tuesday.
“It’s like the numbers are going higher and higher and it’s making me nervous,” she said of COVID-19 cases.
Said Holder: “I think at this point the data is so powerful that this is a safe and effective vaccine.”
To find out where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine in South Florida, click here.