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Targeted Community Events Aim to Increase Vaccine Outreach to Communities of Color

Clinton and Ruby Worthy
Clinton and Ruby Worthy

A soggy day didn’t keep scores of Dallas residents from lining up to get registered Saturday for the COVID-19 vaccine at Town East Mall in Mesquite. 

At 91 and 86 years of age, respectively, Clinton and Ruby Worthy were determined to get the vaccine.

“We’ve tried to get an appointment (for the vaccine) a few times before but it hasn’t happened yet,” said Mrs. Worthy.  “We’ve been putting this off but we know of others who have passed away and at our age we know we are at risk.” 

Black Americans have been contracting and dying from the coronavirus at rates higher than other racial or ethnic groups in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The long-time area residents made the short trip to the mall from their home in East Dallas. Dallas County and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have partnered to prioritize vaccinating residents in hard-to-reach ZIP codes, including the one where the Worthys live, in 75228. 

While recent state-level data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that vaccine enthusiasm is growing, access still presents an issue, and Black Texans are getting vaccinated at consistently lower rates than whites – just seven percent of the state’s vaccinations through February. 

Zip code-specific outreach is just one of many strategies being employed to educate the community designed to address both vaccine hesitancy and lack of access. 

“Of equal importance is to register for the vaccine in as many places as you are willing to drive and to get your vaccine as soon as you are eligible,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “If we do these things, we will defeat COVID and we will reach herd immunity in 2021.”

The Worthys had early reservations about taking the vaccine but knew their race and their age put them at high risk for contracting the virus. With no email or internet, they had difficulty getting an appointment before, but with help from family members and volunteers at Saturday’s event, they hoped this fresh effort would pay off. 

“Our niece is going to help make sure we don’t miss the email or the appointment,” said Mrs. Worthy. “Whenever we can get it we will be there.”

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