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City commission approves new plan to tackle vaccine racial disparities

Posted at 6:14 PM, Jan 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 16:57:04-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Tallahassee city commissioners approved a new communications plan for the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday.

The idea is to give people the correct information while still letting them decide whether to take the vaccine. The NAACP said it’s a step in the right direction in closing the minority disparity gap.

"What COVID has done has pretty much shown that, what has always been the case for African-American communities, a lot of those disparities come from just not having the information," said Tallahassee NAACP Branch Mutaqee Akbar.

Akbar said he still isn't sure if he's getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to him.

"I don't have enough information to know whether it's safe for me to take it or not," said Akbar.

His thoughts are part of a trend that's happening across the state. Florida Department of Health said only about five percent of African-American seniors and front-line workers have received the vaccine so far. In Leon County, that's about eight percent.

Akbar explains it could be due to a number of reasons.

"The distrust that a lot of Americans have in the health care system itself and not wanting to take the vaccine," said Akbar. "I think another issue is just not disseminating in the African-American community so people would know where to get the vaccine, how to sign up for the vaccine and even the health implications of it."

The Tallahassee city commission is hoping to change that with a new communications plan. It will focus on disadvantaged areas of town. The idea is to help build confidence that the vaccine does work through transparency and education.

"How do you sign up? How do you register? Do you need to call? Do you need to sign up online? All these rules people don't know so I just think that's so important. We want people to get vaccinated," said Tallahassee Commissioner Jeremy Matlow.

"It's really an individual decision but that decision has to be based off of actual knowledge and not what people are telling other people to do," said Akbar.

The plan will cost the city less than $1,00,000 which is less than one percent of the city's budget.

"If you don't know, you don't know," said Matlow. "If you're in a community where you don't read the newspaper or know where they're available, we're really trying to get into those neighborhoods, get into the community, tell them where they can go, how to sign up, and assist any way they can."

This effort is similar to efforts by Leon County Commissioners, who plan to use $175,000 federal CARES Act funds on a public health communications plan.