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Durham ramps up messaging to reach Black community hesitant to get COVID-19 vaccine

Durham County is 37% black, but so far only 23% of those vaccines recipients are.

Posted Updated

Lora Lavigne
, WRAL Durham reporter
DURHAM, N.C. — Several Black Durham leaders are getting the opportunity to get their vaccine early in hopes their experience will resonate with the larger community.

It is an effort to address the issue of trust and accessibility head-on. The latest data shows over 38,000 people in Durham have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The county is 37% Black, but so far only 23% of those vaccines recipients are.

Durham County is working with local churches and organizations to vaccinate leaders in Black communities to bolster confidence.

“Were it not for the call of others, I would have been more than happy to wait for my turn, but I'd much rather use the platform that I have to make sure that grandma is at the next birthday party or graduation," said Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton.

Middleton is the latest person selected by the county health department to help increase participation. He got his first dose on Thursday.

"One of the reasons why a dose was available for me is because there aren’t enough people in line that should be in line in my community. I would love for them to not have been able to accommodate me today because Black folks who were told to be getting this vaccine are getting them on demand. That’s just not been the case when we look at the numbers," he added.

The numbers show the stark difference in the demographics. Nearly 80% of vaccine recipients in Durham are white, yet they make up just 54% of the county’s population.

“It is a social justice issue first and foremost," said Reverend Jay Augustine. The senior pastor at St. Joseph AME Church in Durham made it his mission to help change the narrative.

"I recognize wholeheartedly the reality of what was the Tuskegee experiment. Those sort of comments proliferate people's minds still to this day. I’ve heard jokes saying, 'You go ahead and get it first and I’m gonna wait and see what happens.' We’ve done enough waiting," he said.

Middleton said the amount of hesitancy among elders in the Black community is startling.

County leaders hope this initiative will help dispel myths and move this community forward.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic obviously. These are attempts to help people, not an attempt to hurt," Augustine said.

Middleton plans to get his second dose in March. Augustine said his church is in the middle of discussions with state leaders in hopes of hosting a vaccine site in Durham soon.


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