BROCKTON, Mass. — As the state looks to boost vaccine equity this week with a new approach focused on 20 communities hard hit by the pandemic, some providers have already been working to increase outreach.
The Brockton Neighborhood Health Center has two vaccine ambassadors who have become go-to resources for those seeking information about both COVID-19 vaccines. The Haitian community in Brockton is an area of focus, and Raynolda Hamilton is a registered nurse with BNHC who has taken on the new role of ambassador.
“They’re scared; I keep telling them I’m here for them to educate them, I’m not here to tell them or to force the vaccine on them,” Hamilton said.
Months ago, she was skeptical of the vaccines.
“I didn’t want to take it,” Hamilton stated.
In the fall, her father, 67-year-old Renold Chirac, was infected with COVID-19 and died four days later, Hamilton explained.
“I do believe if he had a chance to take the vaccine he would and [would still] be with us,” Hamilton added.
She began to research everything about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and, in January, she was vaccinated.
Monday, the state Department of Public Health’s newly designated liaisons will begin working with 20 cities and towns disproportionately affected by the pandemic to boost awareness about vaccine safety and efficacy, and lessen barriers to vaccination, according to a news release from Gov. Baker’s office and DPH.
Hamilton, a mother of three and a military veteran, said one of her patients gave her a series of questions that spans 17 pages. There are frequently asked questions on the state’s website translated into multiple languages, including Haitian-Creole, but they do not answer everything, Hamilton said.
“Even though they can read it, they need someone to explain it to them,” she said.
Boston 25 News also spoke with Lynn Community Health Center’s Dr. Catherine Reyes, who has been working to further vaccine education and outreach.
“I’m glad that the state is doing this right now,” Dr. Reyes said. “I wish there had been more of this effort and planning months ago because we should have been ready.”
LCHC is starting to work with local churches to reach those who are eligible for the vaccination but have struggled for access to it and information about it.
Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition is a group demanding that decisions, policies and actions taken are effective for the city’s Black community and its businesses.
“I’m glad that this is becoming a real part of the implementation process; the timing of it is unfortunate,” said Dr. Atyia Martin of BBCC.
Dr. Martin said the equity boost is an opportunity to improve access but said it would be better if there was a clear strategy for equity-related actions and less reaction to criticism of the state’s vaccine rollout.
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