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Howard County aims for vaccine equity

Communities of color coming up short in bid for vaccines
Posted at 3:34 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 17:08:45-05

COLUMBIA, Md. — Shut out of St. John’s Baptist Church in Columba for months during the pandemic, Reverend Robert Turner watched the impact COVID had on his congregation.

“We have had members, family members, friends of members who have either died from this virus or tested positive with this virus,” said Turner.

Now, the pastor is allowing Howard County to turn his church into a vaccination site and other places of worship will follow, bringing the shots to those who have either balked at getting one or who couldn’t find one.

“To date in Howard County, African-Americans make up 25 percent of the fatalities while only 18 percent of the cases,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball.

Ball says African-Americans also make up more than 20 percent of the county’s population, but they’ve only received 13 percent of the vaccines administered here.

At 45 years old, Ball had held off on getting the shot until now, but he hopes to ease the minds of those reluctant to get vaccinated.

“Frankly, I’ve begun hearing people saying, ‘If you aren’t going to get it or haven’t gotten it yet, why should I?’” Ball explained.

The county executive also specifically requested the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine to dispel criticism of its effectiveness, as the county began administering its first 400 doses of the new vaccine today.

“I encourage everyone to take the first vaccine offered as all three of the currently authorized vaccines are life savers,” said Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman. “Don’t throw away the life vest if it’s thrown out to you.”

County leaders say they hope clinics, like the one scheduled for the church, will help those who want the shot, but have problems with transportation or going on line to schedule an appoint to get the vaccine.