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North Omaha pastor fighting for COVID-19 vaccine access, equality

While Douglas County advocates for more minority populations to be vaccinated, no sites have been set up in north Omaha
Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:10 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine continues in the Omaha-metro, it’s evident that people of color are getting their shots far less than those who are white.

According to Douglas County Health Director Dr. Adi Pour — and the county’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard — of the total number of those vaccinated here, 77.8% of them are white, 5.1% are Black, 4.6% are Hispanic, 2.5% are Asian, and 0.4% are Native American.

At the Board of Health meeting Wednesday morning, Pastor Portia Cavitt expressed her frustrations.

“I have been patient long enough and have listened to every statement of ‘wait’ and ‘why we are in this current situation,’” she said.

Cavitt tells 6 News that she became “disturbed” on Monday when the county announced another vaccine clinic in west Omaha.

“All of the sites are, what, west of Dodge or up at 72nd,” she said.

Cavitt’s church, Clair Memorial United Methodist at 56th and Ames streets, has been a partner of the county health department for years. And as a board member of NOAH, the North Omaha Area Health Clinic, Cavitt says she speaks with Dr. Pour and other county health members regularly.

A meeting about hosting several small vaccination sites in north Omaha was held last week, Cavitt said. However, after not hearing back from members about host sites, she became frustrated.

“I wanted to remind them that in June of last year, they put together the resolution that racism is a health issue,” Cavitt said, explaining why she was appearing for public comment at the board meeting. “So if you said that, and African Americans are disproportionately dying from COVID-19, then why aren’t we making sure they get the vaccine?”

At the meeting, Dr. Pour said there was no site big enough to host a large clinic in north Omaha, and no places have adequate space for the parking needed to host large crowds.

“I just want the board to know how hard we looked for a place in north Omaha,” Pour said. “When you do big sites, one of the most important things we found is parking spaces. You really need to have parking spaces.”

Cavitt said there are ways around the issue.

“We know that the city nor the county has invested in north Omaha so, yes, there might not be many sites that are that large, but then why can’t you think outside the box and open up a couple smaller sites?” Cavitt said.

She came up with action plans for the Douglas County Board of Health, which included dividing up the area into quadrants, and giving them potential host sites for smaller vaccine clinics. She also suggested that already vaccinated healthcare workers and volunteers take the city buses and shuttles to the site to avoid taking up parking spaces.

Dr. Pour said dividing the area into quadrants is likely what will happen, but that they hope to have the city’s first drive-through vaccine clinic open at Metro Community College’s north campus on April 1.

Meanwhile, a mini clinic for around 100 people is being held at Cavitt’s church on Tuesday afternoon in partnership with North Omaha Area Health and nursing students from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The clinic, open to those ages 65 and older, will run from 1 to 5 p.m.

Cavitt said it’s a great step, but there’s plenty more work to be done, and she wants the county to do it.

“What are we saying to people of color here in Douglas County?”

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