PARAMUS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New data shows people of color are getting vaccinated at a rate far below white residents.

Health officials in Bergen County, New Jersey are now working to address the issue, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported Friday.

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On average, 1,000 people are being vaccinated per day at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus. But health officials recognized the racial disparity in the numbers and decided to create what’s called “an equity team.”

They’ll do outreach and education to get shots in arms equally in all communities.

Henry Norman Jr. is relieved to finally be vaccinated. He’s one of 35 people who work in under served communities and were given priority Friday morning.

COVID VACCINE

“If it’s going to make me feel better or protect me against this virus, why wouldn’t I take it. It’s a no brainer for me,” Norman said.

But community leaders say there’s still a level of vaccine hesitancy in some minority communities due to historic racism and mistrust in the medical system.

“African American people are often the last ones to get medical care. They’re turned away often – they’re not sick enough, they’re not in enough pain. So they’re very leery with the different things throughout history where people have been abused and mistreated,” said Alison Du Bois from Greater Bergen Community Action.

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Communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Yet, of the 121,000 doses administered in Bergen County as of Feb. 9:

  • 7% have gone to Asian Americans,
  • 6% to Latinos,
  • and 2% to African Americans.

The totals are way below proportions to the population.

“We have to make even extra attempts and extra strides to get vaccines into the arms of those folks,” said Bergen County Executive James Tedesco.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

An equity team was created for trustworthy leaders to help high risk people learn about the vaccine, sign-up for and get to their appointments.

“We started with the clergy, because the clergy really are influencers in their communities. They carry that level of trust back into their communities,” said Deborah Visconi, Bergen Newbridge Medical Center’s president and CEO.

“For them to be here, getting the vaccine, is incredibly powerful,” Visconi said.

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The equity team is also working to connect vaccine providers to smaller community groups in order to boost access.

Natalie Duddridge