PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — With many cities struggling to get their populations vaccinated, Paterson, New Jersey is among the places in our area seeing great success.

Officials say the city has the highest rate of vaccination in the state, and they attribute that to the city’s grassroots efforts to get out into the community and educate the public.

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After months of uncertainty over whether she should get the shot, 34-year-old Latoya Harris is now fully vaccinated.

“A lot of people of color were very skeptical about it. You know, history hasn’t been fair to us when it came to vaccines, when it came to just health care, period,” she said.

Harris says educating herself on the vaccine eventually changed her mind.

Paterson resident Vanessa Childs told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon she struggled for months over whether she should get vaccinated.

“My family and people I was close to were more scared of getting it, because they hear other people get sick from it. Even me, I was very hesitant to get it. I was against the COVID shot, I didn’t want it,” she said.

Child said educating herself on the virus eventually changed her mind, and she got the shot in May.

“Listening to other people, like, ‘Yeah, I got it, and it’s all fine.’ You know, so I’m like, alright, I’m just gonna stop being stubborn,” she said.

She’s one of 87% of adults in Paterson who have received at least one shot.

COVID VACCINE

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The mayor joined the public health officer Wednesday to announce the city is now administering Pfizer booster shots.

Mayor Andrew Sayegh said it took a concerted effort, including social media, partnering with community groups, and using a mobile unit to access hard to reach populations.

“There was some vaccine hesitancy amongst African Americans, especially males, so we recruited very influential African-American males to come out, issue the clarion call, tell people to come, it’s safe and it’s effective,” he said.

Public Health Officer Dr. Paul Persaud added the city also used specific strategies to reach low income residents.

“They can’t take time off to come to get vaccinated, because they don’t get paid their jobs. That’s one of the reasons why we do our afterhours, to reach those hard to reach,” he said.

Harris believes the community outreach has made a difference in people of color feeling more comfortable with the vaccine.

Dhillon spoke with one resident who got her second shot Wednesday. She said it took convincing, but she’s glad she did it.

“Maybe it might save my life. If I get the virus, it won’t be as bad as if I didn’t have the shot,” she said.

The mayor said the next big push is to reach those who need the booster shot. Eligible residents can visit the health department from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team