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Douglas County health director: Black community a ‘very high priority’ to get COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 10:26 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Douglas County’s top doctor is sounding the alarm on low vaccination rates among the Black community.

“We definitely have a lag with our Black population in terms of getting them in and getting them vaccinated,” Dr. Lindsay Huse, Douglas County’s health director, said to county commissioners on Tuesday. “This is something that is very high on our priority list and something we’re looking at very closely.”

ZIP code 68110 has the lowest vaccination rate in the county with just 38% of those eligible fully vaccinated, compared to the county average of more than 56%.

“We’re working with our trusted partners in North Omaha and we’re having conversations with different stakeholders to determine how best we can help get those numbers up,” Dr. Huse said.

And a key partner is the Heart Ministry Center in north Omaha, a place people go for everything from groceries and laundry to medical care. More recently, they have also come for a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Paired with the relationship that we have with the people in north Omaha that we have a lot of times spent years building,” said Mark Dahir, CEO of Hearth Ministry Center, noting that relationship is key in getting people on board. “Now that we have the vaccine available, the community is already in a good rhythm with us.”

On Wednesday, the center is hosting its fifth vaccination clinic in partnership with the Douglas County Health Department. Over the summer, the numbers have been slowly climbing.

“The first clinic, we had five or six people get vaccinated,” Dahir said. “The last clinic, we had close to 30 people get vaccinated; so we anticipate even more people here to get vaccinated tomorrow.”

To make getting the vaccine convenient, the clinic’s hours are the same as the food pantries and other services.

“A lot of the time, information comes by word of mouth,” Dahir said. “North Omaha is a tight-knit community, and the Heart Ministry Center has the trust of the community.”

Because of that trust, they believe it’s only a matter of time and continued effort; they’re confident more and more people will show up for a shot.

“Normally, when we have a resource available people find out about it and, over time, demand for that resource winds up showing up,” Dahir said.

Wednesday’s vaccination clinic at Heart Ministry Center runs from 10 a.m. through 1 p.m. The vaccines are free, and no appointment is needed.

The Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available.

Correction: An earlier version of this story referenced the wrong ZIP code for the data presented. 6 News regrets the error.

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