Local News

Meeting people where they are, getting COVID vaccine to underserved communities

Posted February 4, 2022 5:45 p.m. EST
Updated February 4, 2022 6:32 p.m. EST

— When it comes to winning the war against coronavirus, it’s clear that vaccines are the solution.

However, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are disparities in vaccine equity. As of last week, health officials estimate around 59% of all North Carolinians are fully vaccinated – but when you break that down by race, the department says that number includes just 45% of African Americans.

That’s why Jonathan Barrett works tirelessly to ensure that everyone has equal access to COVID vaccines.

Barrett, who is a supervisor with UNC Health's mobile vaccination unit, says, "I really wanted to help be a part of the change and help with shifting some of the figures we would see when it comes to the equity rates across the vaccine effort."

His team organizes outreach in communities with low vaccination rates.

"There are locations where patients can go to receive care, but we should not be naive to some of the patients that live in areas where they cannot receive care," he says. "A mobile health initiative is essentially bringing care to the communities that have lack of access, transportation issues or things that are a barrier for them to receive care."

So far, Barrett's unit has already vaccinated 2,500 people from those underserved communities.

"We are so grateful for Jonathan and his passion for the community and his operational knowledge to really run and keep our patients safe," says Nialah Sharp, a co-worker at UNC Health. "You can tell he really cares, and this is not just something he does for a job, does for money. He does this because of the impact it can make."

"You got to meet people where they are," he says. "So just being recognized for something like this is such an honor, and I'm just so grateful."

Barrett said the mobile vaccination clinic is only the beginning. As the team continues to grow, he hopes to expand to more communities in need.

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