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Health Team

Vaccination expansion could help close health care gap among historically marginilized communities

Posted April 6, 2021 4:51 p.m. EDT
Updated April 6, 2021 6:19 p.m. EDT

— As COVID-19 vaccine distribution expands to larger segments of the population, disparities in the rollout persist. The expansion April 7 to everyone ages 16 and up has the potential to either improve or deepen the inequities among historically marginalized communities.

North Carolina has come to a critical point in the vaccine distribution process that could either make or break longstanding health inequities. That’s why health advocates are making sure that everyone has an even playing field.

It’s no secret the pandemic ripped the Band-Aid off historically known equity issues in the health care system.

"COVID-19 really just had a way of ripping it off so no one could no longer say, 'Hey, no, that doesn’t exist.' Everyone is on equal playing field. COVID really said it is unequal and these are the ways that it’s unequal," said Kearston Ingraham.

Getting the shot was a no brainier for Ingraham whose son has severe asthma. She works with the Duke Cancer Institute Office of Health Equity and has spent the majority of the pandemic working with several programs to improve accessibility.

"Is it vaccination hesitancy or is it someone who doesn’t have access or know how to access the system in order to get the shot in their arms? This really is looking at the totality of that," she said.

Communities with people of color are still under-represented when it comes to those who’ve been vaccinated. This gap has the potential to narrow or widen even more when Group 5 vaccinations begin.

"I sit back and I think about that saying: Am I my brother's keeper? And when we’re talking about a community environment, especially in the middle of a pandemic, yes. We are everyone’s keeper," she said.

Ingraham said vaccination effort provide a shot to change the narrative surrounding inequities in health care systems, prevent widening disparities going forward and achieve broad population immunity.

"So I really hope that all this pain was not in vain. And it was not something that we’re going to go back to old habits but rather a way that we are able to improve a lot of the different systems," she added.

Ingraham believes the only way forward is with clear and determined action, giving factual information to those who are still hesitant and getting people scheduled for those vaccine appointments that have become so widely available.

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