State leaders hoping north Baton Rouge vaccine clinic, serving thousands, can be 'emulated' statewide
BATON ROUGE - The doors to Living Faith Christian Center on Winbourne Avenue were open Friday, but not for worship. Those showing up have been praying for something else: a COVID-19 vaccine.
"We hope that the model that we're doing at the north Baton Rouge pop-up clinic is one that can be emulated across the state," Dr. Courtney Phillips, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health said Friday.
Phillips was among the roughly 1,200 people to get their first vaccine dose Friday, the first day of a two-day clinic, in an area state leaders are working to ensure has access to shots.
"What we know is, it's not enough to simply make the vaccine available in underserved communities, like north Baton Rouge, but you actually have to make sure it is meaningly available," Gov. John Bel Edwards said while visiting the site.
Edwards says that means making sure a broad swath of these communities has access to appointments, both online and by phone, and can get to the vaccine site.
According to LDH, just under 23% of the people vaccinated so far are African American, which Edwards says means it's critical to bring vaccines to predominately Black neighborhoods.
"We know that [African Americans are] about 33% of our population," Edwards said. "So they're underrepresented."
Since the state began vaccinations in mid-December, Edwards and health officials have been working to curb vaccine hesitancy, seen largely in minority communities. The 2,200 shots given at Living Faith between today and tomorrow, they say, indicate that effort is paying off, though more improvement must be made.
"You would expect this, that hesitancy would diminish over time when individuals get to see that their family members, their colleagues, and neighbors have been vaccinated, and they didn't have any terrible side effects," Edwards said. The deeper we get into the vaccination program, and you can see that it's obviously working."
Officials promise this site, made possible with help from several community partners, including the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, will not be the last of its kind in underserved communities.
Those communities with lingering concerns are being asked to get their questions answered from reliable sources and trust the science behind the vaccines.
"There's a lot of mistrust, earned mistrust, in our communities of color, and I understand it," Phillips said. "I have it. But it's important to not let this mistrust create a greater inequity in healthcare."