LOS ANGELES — For the first time since the pandemic began, Black Los Angeles County residents have surpassed Latinos for the highest rate of virus infections, hospitalizations and deaths, according to the county’s public health director.
It’s a matter of life or death, but there is still a disparity when it comes to vaccines in the Black community. Some attribute it to a lack of access, while others say it's misinformation.
Nancy had been avoiding getting the vaccine for months, but she was finally ready as she checked into the clinic at Heart of Los Angeles.
"I don’t know — I was nervous," she said.
Nancy finally decided to go to the vaccine clinic at Heart of Los Angeles because she trusts the Executive Director Tony Brown.
Her daughter and niece take classes at the organization Tony Brown leads. It offers free academic, arts and athletic programs for 6 to 24 year olds in underserved communities.
“I believe that every kid has potential to be successful, and they just need to be given another chance. So, on a day like today when I see shots getting into the arms of families who have struggled so hard with this COVID crisis, it makes me really happy and emotional," Brown explained.
But Tony was alarmed to find that many of the Black and brown teens that utilize his services still had not been vaccinated, even though they’ve been eligible for more than a month.
He met with the Department of Public Health who showed him a map. His area and the surrounding communities have the lowest rates of youth vaccinations in the city.
"Here we are in probably one of the most densely populated parts of our city and actually one of the most densely populated areas in our country and yet we only had 168 16 and 17 year olds who had gotten the vaccine? So, I knew I had an uphill battle and I knew I had a lot of work to do," he said.
To address the issue, Tony held several informational sessions at Heart of Los Angeles. He said the parents who showed up still had many fears.
“There were a lot of questions that came up around 'is this vaccine safe? My child — I want my child to have children one day and I don’t know' and the amount of misinformation that’s out there in this community is, I think, what’s keeping them away," Brown explained.
Tony also reached out to Collin Hinds, a friend of his who has volunteered to help host several vaccine events targeting specific communities, to include Ethiopians, Sri Lankans, Caribbeans and Black sorority and fraternities.
"People are connecting because of their nationality, their cultural background," Hinds explained.
Collin helped to organize the clinic at Heart of Los Angeles to address the critical need for more vaccines in Black and brown arms.
While overall COVID cases remain generally low, LA County Public Health just announced that Black residents now have the highest rates of virus infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
"African American men and Latino men at 19 and 17% are one of the lowest vaccination rates in the County of Los Angeles, but yet they are the highest in terms of suffering from all of the related side effects and deaths from COVID,” Hinds explained.
Even Collin said he was once hesitant to get the vaccine, but once he saw his close family and friends getting their shots, he got it too.
It’s using trust and relationships to encourage others to get on board, like Nancy, who can now show the adults and teenagers in her circle that the vaccine is safe.
"So, they could have a better health and not get sick and do it for their families and their loved ones," she said as she waited 15 minutes for observation after getting her shot.