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Trusting the vaccine: Outreach to minority communities needed

Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 5:56 PM EST
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COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - As health departments race against the clock to get a COVID-19 vaccine out to the country, some minority communities are deciding whether to trust it. Our Katharine Huntley spoke with a community leader about it.

I met with Francis Manga, who is the coordinator for the Congolese Community in Vermont. He said his community is split between those who want the vaccine and an even broader group of people who don’t trust it.

“They want to see first white people, I’m sorry to say that, take it and then what’s the consequences of that will be, then they can take it as well,” Manga said.

Some of this distrust comes from historical issues of bad vaccines in Africa and not trusting what’s actually in the vaccine.

Manga says the health department needs to educate these minority communities which will help people gain trust in wanting to take the vaccine.

“So reaching out to the specific communities will help in resolving or actually encouraging and bringing awareness to what the vaccine is, what are the benefits of taking the vaccine, what are the consequences of taking the vaccine,” Manga said.

The health department says that information is coming out daily regarding the vaccine and they will disseminate it once they get it.

In a statement on Monday, Vermont Health Department Spokesperson Ben Truman said, in part, “The Health Department is working closely with organizations and partners across Vermont to ensure everyone in the state will have the COVID-19 vaccination information they need.”

One of those partners the health department is working with is the UVM Medical School to help contact members of underserved communities such as Congolese, Nepalese and Somali.

“The important piece is for historically underserved communities and historically marginalized communities is to ensure that we provide accurate information in a timely manner and through interpretation,” said Mercedes Avila of the UVM Larner College of Medicine.

Avila works with people who can speak the language of particular communities and will help get the information out once they receive it from the health department.

“They just reached out to us to start disseminating information to all the communities so the plan exists and we are already in communication with them to make sure we work together and in partnership with the communities to disseminate information,” Avila said.

Manga said in a couple of weeks, he hopes to have a meeting space up and running in Colchester where Congolese people can get correct and vetted information about what’s going on with vaccines and COVID-19 among other issues.

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