One best practice that states are using to reach under-vaccinated minority populations is applying the Social Vulnerability Index to distribute vaccines to minority populations. Health officials in Tennessee have set aside 5% of their vaccine supply for areas with high scores on a CDC Social Vulnerability Index. In the other best practice, states have used tribal leaders and organizations to encourage the uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine by Indian natives.
Using the Social Vulnerable Index in Distributing Vaccines to Minority Populations
- One best practice that states are using to reach under-vaccinated minority populations is to apply the Social Vulnerable Index, where states are taking a portion of the share of vaccines they have and distributing it to places plagued by factors linked to the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on people of color, such as poverty and poor housing.
- Tennessee is an example of a state that has implemented this best practice in Haywood County, a majority-Black community in Tennessee Delta near Memphis. The county has one health department, no hospital, one nursing home, and the closest emergency room is a half-hour away by car. Also, the death rate of covid-19 in the county is 50% higher than the state average.
- Health officials in Tennessee committed to setting aside 5% of the vaccine supply they have for areas that have scored highly on a CDC Social Vulnerability Index. State Rep. Cameron Sexton said he favored using a clear index backed by health condition facts and that focusing on vulnerable populations did not make distribution a race issue.
- If officials were to distribute vaccines based strictly on its population, the strategy would leave the county very short. There would be very few doses to make a difference in the disease’s burden on black people, disproportionately affected and ravaged by the Coronavirus pandemic that is killing “1 in 1,000 Black Americans by the fall.”
- To address the disparity, state officials are taking a portion of their share of shots off the top and rushing it to places beset by factors most linked to the pandemic’s disproportionate toll on people of color like poverty and poor housing.
- According to Michelle D. Fiscus, who leads Tennessee’s immunization program, the move was prompted by statistics showing that Covid-19 has exposed the significant disparity in outcomes for Black Americans. She stated that the state is giving more vaccines to Haywood County to help vaccinate the population faster because many are dying.
The Use of Tribal Leaders and Organizations to Encourage Uptake
- The other best practice used by states to reach under-vaccinated minority populations is the use of tribal leaders and organizations to get early buy-in on the vaccines among minority groups. The tribal leaders and organizations help their communities understand the importance of the Covid-19 vaccine and encourage uptake.
- To ensure Indian communities get vaccinated, respected elders and tribal leaders are crucial in leveraging their influence to help get the message out. This is because a study by Northeastern University that tracked online behaviors suggests that “people of color, including indigenous people, are more likely to rely on trusted voices within their own communities for information about the pandemic and the vaccine.”
- Minnesota is an example of a state that has used tribal elders and Indian Organizations to reach under-vaccinated minority populations. In southeastern Minnesota, the state partnered with the Prairie Island Indian Community, which had “early buy-in on the vaccines from community elders. In mid-December, the tribe hosted a Zoom meeting for community members with elders, tribal council members, and Prairie Island Health Center’s primary doctor to answer questions and talk about the vaccines.” According to the director of clinical operations for Neopath Health, which runs the Prairie Island clinic, Katie Halsne, the majority of tribal elders have accepted the vaccine and feel a responsibility to protect their community.
- After health care workers at the Prairie Island clinic and long-term care facility, residents, and first responders had received the first round of vaccines, around 80 elders and 200 members considered high-risk received the vaccine. The best practice has been to emphasize the elders’ protection as key in helping communities understand the importance of the Covid-19 vaccine.
- The Coronavirus has hit indigenous communities hard, and tribal leaders are taking the responsibility to assist their community to feel comfortable taking the vaccine and know its safety for the majority of people. Past injustices against tribal communities have eroded trust, and Covid-19 has disproportionately affected Native communities, partly because of long-standing social inequalities that have “put American Indian and Alaskan Natives at higher risk for contracting the virus.”
- A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that in “23 states with data on race, American Indian and Alaskan Native populations were 3.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with the Coronavirus than white people and four times as likely to be hospitalized.”
- According to CDC, The IHS has distributed 290,900 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in its 12 geographic areas, and more than 74,000 first doses have been administered.