Brockton on vaccine equity push: Any assistance is needed

BOSTON — A new plan introduced by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration looks to remove barriers to vaccination for black and brown communities, some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state picked 20 communities with the highest COVID case rates and people of color. This comes after weeks of criticism over equity when it came to access to vaccines.

On Thursday and Friday, the city of Brockton, one of twenty that are part of the equity focus will begin vaccinations at the Shaw’s Center, transitioning from the high school, according to its mayor.

Less than a week later, Brockton will have a state health department liaison tasked with helping improve access for vulnerable populations

Each of the municipalities will have their dedicated liaison working with them beginning on February 22nd, according to a spokesperson for the

Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).

“They’re going to be working in tandem with our ambassadors that we’ve hired from the board of health,” said Mayor Robert Sullivan.

Part of that work will be educating people in multiple languages about the vaccine rollout and where to get them and when.

COVID trends are down in Brockton similar to much of the rest of the state but it is a community hard hit since early in the pandemic with infections and deaths.

Now, the numbers being watched are vaccine doses administered, and the supplies coming in.

The city is set to receive 400 doses and the community health center will get 600, the first time the center has gotten the full order requested.

“We feel a huge sense of urgency as soon as we get a dose we want to have it in someone’s arm,” sad Sue Joss, CEO of the Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (BNHC).

Another part of the state’s equity push is funding community health centers’ efforts.

“People from all over the state have been calling trying to find vaccine and trying to get on our list,” Joss said.

“We have gotten so slammed that our own patients have had a hard time making appointments.”

One million dollars in state grant money is being made available to health centers in $25,000 awards.

If BNHC is awarded a grant, they plan to upgrade the phone system.

The third aspect of the equity plan has to do with outreach for vulnerable groups to lessen the hesitancy surrounding getting a vaccination.

“The groups most impacted by covid are the ones most hesitant to get the vaccine,” Joss added.

Brockton Neighborhood Health Center has two vaccine ambassadors and one is Ana Maria Barbosa.

She’s Cape Verdean, a population in the city greatly impacted by COVID-19 infections, according to the BNHC.

“It makes me feel really sad it’s a terrible virus that’s why we want to educate and get vaccinated and stay safe and stay health,” Barbosa explained.

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