Black and Puerto Rican Caucus push COVID-19 vaccination safety for minority community


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — COVID-19 and how it affects the health of those in the minority community is the top priority for the state legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.

The group will unveil its agenda this week. In the meantime, the governor’s pivot in the vaccine rollout is affecting this community hit hard by the pandemic.

Related: State’s largest teachers union reacts to teachers being prioritized in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

State Representative Bobby Gibson, the Democratic Vice-Chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, says, “With only have 8 percent of Black and Puerto Rican people taking the shot, we have to do a much better job.”

Gibson says doing a better job means getting the word out, including Spanish and English Public Service Announcements about the vaccine being safe.

State Representative Geraldo Reyes, the Democratic Chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, admits, “If we don’t figure out how to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, everything else we have as pillars won’t matter.”

The caucus is announcing its platform this week – eight priorities for the legislative session. The top priority is the COVID-19 reform. Reyes and Gibson recently joked with Governor Ned Lamont, who received his shot at a church in Bloomfield, about vaccine age requirements.

Governor Ned Lamont told them, “You’re too young, too young sorry.”

Therefore they will have to wait to get the vaccine. Age is now the driver in who gets the vaccine next – the older you are, the more at risk. According to Department of Health Officials and the governor’s office, there will be a targetted amount of doses set aside for minority communities.

Chief Operating Officer for Connecticut Josh Geballe says, “Maybe they don’t have access to a doctor who could write them a note maybe they are undocumented and don’t want to go near a process that requires proof and documentation we think this gives us the path at the best shot of equitable distribution.”

A lack of trust in government is also keeping members of the minority community from getting the shot.

Dr. Reginald Eadie the Chair of the Governo’s Vaccine Advisory Panel is optimistic about the pivot to age in the vaccine strategy and the focus on communities of color where many are vulnerable.

Giving them more information around the quality safety and efficacy of the vaccine – this organizes that approach so we can communicate better with such populations.”

“We have to be the agents who go in and let people know this is safe and this is something we need to do,” added State Representative Gibson.

Waterbury has reported 300 deaths related to COVID 19. There are two mass vaccination clinics. One run by Trinity Health in the center of the city and the other run by Post University and Waterbury Hospital on the west side.

But these leaders say it’s mostly white people who own cars that get the vaccine. State Representative Rayes says getting Latinos to roll up their sleeves will take work.

“Some don’t speak great English, don’t understand, and are just getting mixed messages. Then it’s going to take a great marketing campaign to get them to a place of comfort.”

Some providers and cities like New Haven and Bridgeport are using reverse 911 call features to reach out to minority communities. They sign people up and offer rides to a neighborhood clinic, so people can get their vaccination shot.

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