DENVER — After nearly 10 months in the pandemic, the COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Colorado and a new "Vaccine Equity Taskforce" in the state is working to provide answers about the shot to communities that are hesitant to get it.
Seeing that reluctance in his own patients, Centura Health doctor and Chief Diversity Inclusion Officer Oswaldo Grenardo joined the Colorado Vaccine Equity Taskforce.
"We know from the numbers with COVID that Black Coloradans, as well as Latino Coloradans, have been hospitalized at higher rates than anyone else," said Dr. Grenardo.
For months, COVID-19 has been disproportionately impacting communities of color in Colorado.
Even still, there are people of color saying "no, thank you" to the vaccine. Like community organizer and well-known local leader Brother Jeff Fard.
"You will not see a lot of Blacks ponying up initially to get in line, saying "hooray there's a vaccination," because of distrust," said Fard, the director of Brother Jeff's Cultural Center in Five Points.
That distrust is not true for every Black, Hispanic or Native American. But, a Colorado Department of Public Health survey, found people of color to be more reluctant to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Overall, the survey said 66% of Coloradans would get vaccinated with an FDA approved vaccine in early 2021. When broken down by race, 67% of Hispanic men and only 58% of Black men were among those willing to be vaccinated.
Of the women of color surveyed, only 51% of Hispanic women and 50% of Black women said they were willing to get it.
"It's a Herculean effort just to overcome that distrust," Dr. Grenardo said.
That's where he hopes the taskforce will be able to help. Grenardo is one of more than 30 people on the taskforce — including other healthcare professionals, religious leaders and well-known members of the community who will focus on earning the trust of more Coloradans of color.
The taskforce is working on culturally-attune ways to answer questions in order to debunk misinformation in both terms and languages that are most effective for a particular population.
Grenardo believes data about Black and Hispanic representation and success during the vaccine trials will also go a long way.
Their goal is to earn more trust in the COVID-19 vaccine, so people in these communities see it as a solution, not a threat.
"The reasons for people not getting vaccinated are so many and so varied," said Dr. Grenardo. "It's really about talking to them about where their hesitancy is coming from. And figuring out how we can better address that hesitancy through the growing data and also the relationships that we build."
>>Watch above video: Underserved part III: How Colorado minority populations are impacted by COVID-19.
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