Vaccinations Up, But High-Risk Populations In Hamilton Co. Still Struggle To Get A Shot
A Hamilton County nonprofit is using Uber and Lyft to get vulnerable residents to COVID-19 vaccine appointments. About 48% of Hamilton County residents have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and advocates say the people most at risk are least able to get the shot.
"We have managed to utilize all types of funding and [we're] looking for some more," said Robert Harris, board president of Cancer Justice Network. "Because we know the issues are out there, we know the need is out there."
County commissioners could use stimulus from the American Rescue Plan to help fund the outreach efforts. The board's spending priorities includes $5 million total for community outreach to vulnerable populations.
Cancer Justice Network primarily helps low-income people, especially those experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. That population is both high-risk for COVID-19 infection and highly skeptical of the medical system.
"Poor people want to get their health care, but they are terrified of the way that they've been treated in health care and they're terrified of the possibility of bills they can't control," said Steve Sunderland, executive director.
Data is not available for demographics like income or housing status, but racial disparities in vaccinations are clear. The state's vaccine dashboard shows less than 30% of Black or African American residents of Hamilton County have gotten at least one vaccine dose, compared to more than 50% of white residents.
Commissioner Alicia Reece says the pandemic has highlighted longstanding inequalities.
"People were dying before COVID for health disparities, and they will continue if we don't really step up," Reece said.
Reece pushed for a mobile vaccination and resources center that can travel throughout the county to make the vaccine more accessible. An initial version of that resource could be on the streets by mid-June.