Brockton working to ease vaccine hesitancy among residents as new site opens

BROCKTON, Mass. — Pauline and Joel Edwards are among the estimated 38,000 Brockton Neighborhood Health Center patients called to get their COVID vaccine.

The Shaw’s Center site received 3,000 shots for this week and they plan to ramp up.

“I had to leave work because I was high risk and financially it’s taking a toll on us. And mentally, emotionally; it’s just been really hard,“ said Pauline Edwards.

95% of the patients here are low-income and more than 80% people of color; one-third Cape Verdean.

The CDC estimates residents in Black and Latinx communities are three times more likely to be hospitalized and two times more likely to die from the virus.

But the Edwards admit they were still hesitant to get the vaccine. Pauline believes she already had COVID and natural remedies were enough.

”As we got educated and better awareness, most people opening up,“ said Pauline Edwards.

Leadership at Brockton Neighborhood Health Center says that there is some vaccine hesitancy among their patients but it’s also a big issue among their staff members and they’re working to change that.

Sue Joss, executive director of the Health Center says “For our own staff 73% of our white employees have been vaccinated compared to about 30% of our Black employees.“

Reports of lower efficacy levels of the newly-approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine is also part of that hesitancy.

Advocates say many in communities of color are concerned systemic inequities in the healthcare system will mean less vaccine choice.

“Don’t make it a Roxbury drug because it’s more convenient to get out. We understand there’s gonna be a tendency to make the drug easier to get out into those communities,” said Micheal Curry, President & CEO Mass League of Community Health Centers and a member of the state’s COVID 19 Vaccine Advisory Group. ”There is a legitimate concern that communities should have access to every option. And that the option that are most convenient shouldn’t be the options that are pushed into black and immigrant communities.“

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