COLUMBUS, Ohio — Community leaders across Ohio are not happy with Gov. Mike DeWine’s distribution plans for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The leaders of seven Urban Leagues across the state, including Stephanie Hightower, president and CEO of the Columbus Urban League, sent a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday.
The letter read, in part:
We urge you to prioritize Black Ohioans, who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 complications and deaths, for COVID-19 vaccination distribution. We need the following for Black Ohioans:
1. Reprioritization of the vaccination distribution to include racial and ethnic minorities who COVID-19 disproportionately impacts.
2. Implement mandatory training at the state and local level for vaccination data collection to ensure best practices for data collection for race and ethnicity.
3. Collaboration with trusted entities in Black communities, outside of medical institutions, to accelerate vaccination distribution in predominately Black communities.
“What we have seen with this administration now, with DeWine, is they have not made that level of investment to put money out into the community to make sure there are community-based organizations that can house testing,” she said. “Everybody’s not going to be able to go out to the fairgrounds. We need to have neighborhood-based locations where people can come, but we first gotta educate the Black community.”
Gov. DeWine has pledged an education campaign targeting the minority community. But it is still in the works.
As of late Wednesday, the governor’s office had yet to receive the Urban League letter but did provide 10TV with this statement:
“Increasing outreach to these important communities is important to Governor DeWine, and he has dedicated significant portions of his COVID briefings to this subject. Numerous cabinet members, including our Director of Aging, have been working on implementing plans to increase outreach in these communities.”
One of the main challenges in minority communities is vaccine hesitancy. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center shows just 42% of Black Americans are willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
And, according to the latest data from the Ohio Dept. of Health, just 3.67% of the state’s Black population has gotten the first dose. And that figure is a fraction of the number of white Ohioans vaccinated.
"The vaccine hesitancy is huge, and we have a responsibility, and I feel like those of us who consider ourselves in leadership roles in the Black community, we have a responsibility to help to educate our community,” Hightower said. “We believe that the best way to educate folks is to actually show them and be examples that, if, in fact, you go and take a test, or get a vaccine, that you’re going to be okay.”
That’s why Hightower, along with Nana Watson, president of the Columbus chapter of the NAACP, got their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday.
Hightower said the two drove to Greene County where they were able to receive the vaccine as part of the ‘no waste’ list there.
“We went, and we took the vaccine because we want to be those examples in our community, to let people know that we’re okay,” Hightower said. “So, this is day two, I have no side effects, and we want to be those examples, but unfortunately we are not on anybody’s list here in our community, so we could not take it here in Franklin County, which is, you know, unfortunate.”