ROOSEVELT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There are new efforts on Long Island to make sure minority communities have equal access to COVID vaccines. Local leaders say those residents already face an uphill battle in convincing residents that vaccinations are safe.

Joseph Austin, of Freeport, a retired scientist, worked on the polio vaccine, and now, decades later, wants to reassure his community the COVID vaccine is safe.

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“Certainly safe. I wouldn’t hesitate,” Austin told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.

Ernie Kight is the Freeport School Board president.

“To show them, listen, we have to get this done,” he said.

COVID VACCINE

There was another state pop-up vaccination site in an underserved community. One in Roosevelt helped 250 members of the church.

“Our communities have been ravaged. Blacks and Latinos have had challenges with the access,” said Rev. Scott Williams, pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church.

“As Black and brown people, we got to get it done. They have to see more of us getting the vaccines,” Roosevelt resident Anita Bullock-Stallings said.

“We know that hesitancy is intensified in communities of color where there’s been mistrust and historical evidence,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

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The mayor speaks of the unethical Tuskegee syphilis study, which used African-American sharecroppers as human guinea pigs. The government later admitted to a 40-year racist, diabolical experiment that has lingering effects.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Hospital teams say to reach the people they want to reach, they have to go deeper, provide more depth to resources and who is delivering the message.

“Yes, it’s very important that everyone knows the vaccine is OK,” one woman said.

“Do more things like this into the communities,” another person said.

And track and trace the distribution.

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“We have been requesting data. By race, ethnicity, zip code, census track, to make sure there is safe, effective and equitable distribution of the vaccine,” said Dr. Debbie Salas-Lopez, of Northwell Health.

Community members say they are counting on the governor and the Biden administration to deliver.

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Jennifer McLogan