AUSTIN (KXAN) — As access to the coronavirus vaccine expands to all Texans over the age of 16, state data shows people of color are still underrepresented among vaccinated groups.
According to data published Monday by the Texas Department of State Health Services, African Americans made up 6.9% of the vaccinated population, despite making up nearly 13% of the state’s total population.
Community advocates said they are fighting to ensure people of color have adequate access to a vaccine and are receiving equitable doses compared to other demographics. They’re also hard at work providing reliable information to these groups and addressing vaccine hesitancy.
“When they see us there, and they see people who look like them doing the job. They see people who look like them getting the vaccinations, it eases the tensions more and more,” said Todd Hamilton, campus president at the Central Texas Allied Health Institute.
He helped found the nonprofit, which offers accessible and affordable education for people of color, particularly in east Austin, in healthcare fields and professions.
“We want to give people of color the opportunity to get educated, to go get one of those jobs, so your grandmother, your aunt, your uncle, your grandfather — when they are in the hospital — that person reminds me of my daughter,” Hamilton explained.
The institute’s leaders said their goal was to help build trust between communities of color and healthcare providers — a mission revolving around the COVID-19 vaccine, these days. Hamilton said they’ve heard a strong sense of mistrust and vaccine hesitancy among minority groups from the start of the vaccine rollout.
“It’s a deep-rooted mistrust that stems from before any of us were on this planet,” he said. “It’s the same reason many people of color do not have a primary care physician.”
Central Texas Allied Health Institute has offered COVID-19 testing at their east Austin location during the pandemic, now has hosted several vaccine distribution events. Hamilton hopes as more in the community gets their shots, misinformation about the vaccine will dissipate.
“We may not get them today. We may not get them tomorrow, but eventually they’ll start to see and they’ll start to hear the community around them [saying], ‘No, I didn’t have any side effects. No, it wasn’t bad. My arm was just a little sore.'”