Here’s how local vaccine clinics are targeting underserved communities

Area health care providers have partnered with local churches to administer COVID-19 vaccines to underserved communities. However, one provider said those disproportionately impacted by the virus haven’t been part of the majority of those receiving the vaccine.

Kettering Health Network held their first vaccine clinic at Grace United Methodist Church and will continue the clinic Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Those eligible for the vaccine must make an appointment on the Kettering Health Network website. As of now all appointment slots are full for the rest of this week. Appointment times will be made available once the number of doses are determined at the end of the week.

Kettering Health Network partnered with Grace United Methodist Church in West Dayton on Thursday to begin distributing the first of two doses necessary for the Pfizer vaccine.

“We have partnered with this church leader as well as all the community church leaders and helping get the word out to the communities that they serve because the churches have more contacts and abilities to reach different communities,” said Therese Slyby, Kettering Health Network executive director of patient care services.

Black Ohioans account for 14% of the states population and 10.1% of COVID-19 cases which is just over 88,000 recorded cases according to the Ohio Department of Health. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis revealed demographic distribution for vaccines were 82% white, 6% Black, 19% unknown race and 24% unknown ethnicity as of Jan. 19. Race and ethnicity data is voluntarily given by those receiving the vaccine.

“We’re only running Thursday through Saturday because that’s how many doses we have to give, but our goal is to run seven days a week and to even extend hours to the weekend. If we can get the vaccine we will give it and work extra, we have the staff to do it,” said Slyby.

Dayton resident Donald Christon, 74, said he wanted the vaccine so he can spend more time with family. “This is an excellent idea for me at my age and I have a grandbaby that I’ve been away from and I want to feel comfortable when I’m around her,” he said.

Although Christon was able to get a vaccine at the clinic he said he was disappointed in the appointment process. Christon said those that aren’t tech savvy or have access to a computer or smart phone to make an appointment are left out. After several failed attempts to make an appointment Christon said he simply just showed up to the clinic for his vaccine.

“I was persistent, but a lot of people wouldn’t be,” he said.

Christon said he has noticed more white people getting the vaccine than Black people.

“We got a problem there and that needs to be corrected,” he said. “If we’re dying three to one we really need the vaccine in our community.”

Five Rivers Health Centers is administering the vaccine at its Family Health Center location on 2261 Philadelphia Drive.

Gina McFarlane-El, chief executive officer of Five Rivers Health Centers, said the clinic has seen more people from outside the 45406 and 45405 zip codes than she would like.

“We received lots of people from lots of neighborhoods south of our area,” she said. “We were happy to serve them, but we also want to make sure that people within our own neighborhood get served.”

Andy Kalan, 85, accompanied by his wife Patricia Kalan, 73, came from Carlisle for Andy to receive the vaccine at the Grace UMC vaccine clinic. Andy said he wasn’t nervous to get the vaccine and the shot was painless. They made the decision to get the vaccine to keep themselves and others safe, especially those with underlying health issues that classify them as high risk.

“All of us who want to be around family need to get the vaccine so we don’t take the disease to them and actually end their lives,” Patricia said.

Staff writer Jordan Laird contributed to this report.

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