Local church joins effort to expand vaccine distribution to underserved communities

As Louisiana expands COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, who’s receiving and not receiving the...
As Louisiana expands COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, who’s receiving and not receiving the vaccine has been a big topic of discussion.((Source: KPLC))
Published: Apr. 10, 2021 at 11:52 PM CDT
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published March 24, 2021 at 6:15 PM CDT - Updated March 24 at 7:17 PM on kplctv.com)

LAKE CHARLES, La. (Great Health Divide) - As Louisiana expands COVID-19 vaccination eligibility, those who are receiving and not receiving the vaccine has been a hot topic.

Wednesday, Christian Baptist Church hosted its second coronavirus vaccination clinic as part of a larger effort to vaccinate communities disproportionately impacted by the virus.

“Ninety-nine percent African American took advantage of the clinic,” said Church Secretary Nicole Simien.

Since the first vaccine was administered in Southwest Louisiana, roughly 27,000 vaccines have been administered in Southwest Louisiana, with African Americans accounting for 19 percent of vaccinations, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.

To provide greater insight into who is receiving the vaccine and whether some groups are facing disparities in vaccination, we decided to look deeper into state-reported data on COVID-19 vaccinations by race/ethnicity.

Now, three months into the state-wide vaccine rollout, the push to get more shots in arms has intensified. But who and where those shots are given is a bit more calculated.

In a discussions earlier this week, Region 5 Medical Director Dr. Lacey Cavanaugh spoke directly about vaccinations in Calcasieu Parish.

“In particular our Black population has not received vaccine in as high of rates per capita as our white population has,” Cavanaugh said. “We believe there’s probably a whole lot of different factors that go into that. And it is definitely something we’re actively working on.”

One look at the state’s latest data, and it’s evident there’s a disparity. In Region 5, compared to the white population, other races make up just under 30 percent of administered vaccines.

Region 5 vaccine series Initiated by race
Region 5 vaccine series Initiated by race(Joseph, Ashley | (Source: KPLC))

Serving as a spiritual staple in North Lake Charles, Christian Baptist Church now serves an even bigger purpose in the fight against COVID-19, specifically for the Black community.

Despite studies showing higher distrust among Black and Latino communities in COVID-19 vaccines, faith-based leaders said they rarely hear those concerns and that more people want the vaccine but are worried about access.

“We had several people come up and say ‘When I heard Christian Baptist was hosting it I signed up.’ That’s a blessing to have that type of impact in our community as well,” said Simien.

Simien said the first clinic the church hosted administered 100 vaccines.

“The first clinic, I think we had 100 doses. And we filled those 100 doses like I said in 1 day. The need was definitely there,” Simien said.

Simien acknowledges most of their congregation are elderly people over the age of 65 years old, and many do not use email or sometimes check their phones. It’s one of the many things she thinks about when discussing vaccine distribution and why conversations about equity are pivotal.

As of March 15, the CDC reported that race/ethnicity was known for just over half (53%) of people who had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Among this group, nearly two-thirds were White (66%), 9% were Hispanic, 8% were Black, 5% were Asian, 2% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and <1% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, while 11% reported multiple or other race.

As for the distribution in Louisiana, the racial disparity is something that every region across the state is experiencing. However, local health officials say it takes on a bigger role in Southwest Louisiana which currently hold the largest positivity rate and the lowest overall vaccination rate.

Click HERE to learn more about other vaccine events in Southwest Louisiana.

Simien says residents can follow Christian Baptist Church on Facebook to find out if and when they host another vaccine clinic.

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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