GREENSBORO, N.C. — Cone Health is stepping up its efforts to correct a disproportionate distribution of the COVD-19 vaccine. The healthcare company has pledged to set aside 35% of all its vaccines for minorities, Cone Health announced.
More than 40% of people in the areas where Cone Health offers services are people of color. However, nearly 78% of the COVID-19 vaccines given by Cone Health have gone to white people, Cone Health healthcare officials said. The vaccine allocation is meant to address that difference.
“Vaccinations are the key to ending this terrible pandemic,” says Cone Health CEO Terry Akin, “but how can we quickly end it by leaving so many people in our community behind? Whites are taking the vaccine in big numbers, others aren’t. This move is part of an effort to close that gap.”
Access to the vaccine, trust and the newness of the vaccine are the reasons for vaccine hesitancy, researchers claim.
Cone Health plans to address all three issues with the allocated vaccines.
First, the allocated vaccines will be distributed in community vaccination clinics in areas where people may find it more difficult to get to a mass vaccination site due to transportation problems or an inability to leave work without forgoing pay, Cone Health officials said. Vaccination clinics will be held in churches and community centers with registration handled by churches and other organizations. These clinics will be placed in both urban and rural areas, Cone Health officials said.
To improve trust between black communities and the medical system, Cone Health has started a series of virtual town halls to bring together Black health care professionals, pastors and faith leaders, as well as community and business leaders to discuss how the vaccine was developed and tested and why it is safe, officials said. Cone Health is also working to overcome language barriers and improve access in Hispanic and other minority community members as well.
Cone Health said it believes as more people become comfortable with the vaccine and the novelty wears off, more and more people will receive the vaccine.
“There is comfort seeing people who look like you, stepping up when offered the chance to get this highly effective vaccine that has been demonstrated to be very safe,” says Cone Health Chief Health Equity Officer Dr. Alvin Powell. “With these actions, Cone Health is laying the groundwork for people in every community we serve to get vaccinated. Together, we will move on from this pandemic.”
These moves fall in line with North Carolina's government's initiative to improve vaccine rates in minority communities.