Vaccine Shot

PAUDCAH — Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, it was revealed Black Americans and low income Americans were disproportionately impacted by cases and deaths.

Data from John Hopkins University show Black Americans are twice as likely to die from COVID-19. The American Medical Association said income status has a significant impact on both COVID-19 cases and deaths.

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, the Foundation for a Health Kentucky encourages vaccine providers to start thinking about equity. 

"They are hard to reach for a number of different reasons — for care for one thing," foundation president and CEO Ben Chandler said. "They don't get the same level of care often, but they also tend to have more health vulnerabilities."

Currently, many vaccine and COVID-19 testing sites are drive-thru only or require people to sign up online. That poses a problem for people without transportation or internet service. The Purchase District Health Department covers five west Kentucky counties. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, poverty levels in the region range from 15.5% in McCracken County to 25.6% in Fulton County. Those are all above the national poverty rate.

"If it is brought to our attention that a certain population in a populated area cannot travel to the health department or to a mass vaccination site, we will do whatever we can to make sure that they are given the opportunity to receive a vaccination, which may include a community vaccination clinic," Purchase District Health Department Director Kent Koster said. 

Chandler said a proactive approach is best for all health departments.

"I think it's very important for health departments to reach out to different neighborhoods, different groups of people within a particular community and let them know a little bit more about when a vaccine will be available, and how to access those vaccines," Chandler said. 

Chandler's group is coordinating with state to help give guidance on equitable vaccine distribution throughout Kentucky.