Since the first vaccines arrived in December, our country has been involved in a critically focused effort to get as many individuals vaccinated as possible. That effort has been filled with several notable milestones but also significant barriers.
As we head into the summer months, the data shows that while we are trending in the right direction for vaccinations, there is still work to be done. And there are still communities that are hesitant about the vaccine and some who don’t have access to a vaccine.
That’s why this week, NLC announced a new initiative with the White House to increase vaccination rates of hard-to-reach communities as part of the Biden Administration’s National Month of Action for COVID-19 Vaccinations. As our country begins to reopen, it is critical that we ensure that we give as many residents as possible in cities, towns and villages the opportunity to receive a vaccine.
The data is clear. While supply is no longer outpacing demand, vaccination rates still remain low in many communities across the country – especially for Black, Latinx and communities of color. And we know why the vaccination rates are low in these areas — both mistrust in the vaccine and difficulty accessing the vaccine.
This hesitation is valid – and we want to acknowledge that. I have gone on my own journey to overcoming skepticism about the coronavirus vaccine. However, relying on guidance and information from scientists, family, leaders in the medical field and public health officials helped me to come to my decision to take the vaccine. I decided to get the vaccine for my family and my community.
It’s also why I was proud to stand with Black CEOs of six of the nation’s largest non-government and non-profit membership associations to address the vaccine hesitancy that we saw in the African American community. Many of us know someone who was reluctant to get the vaccine. That’s why as Black leaders, we have been using our voices on social media and in several media events to educate Black Americans on the science behind the vaccine and encouraging them to trust that information to help them make a decision for themself and their family.
NLC is tackling vaccine hesitancy from all sides. Our initiative with the Black CEOs, along with developing resources for our local leaders on embedding equity into their vaccination programs and connecting city leaders with private sector partners who can expand their reach are just some of the efforts that our organization has undertaken over the last few months.
Getting to our hardest-to-reach communities is just another goal for NLC and local leaders. Through this initiative, we are hoping to incentivize and collect creative and innovative strategies that city leaders are adopting to reach their most vulnerable. Through our existing resource, the Bloomberg COVID Tracker, local leaders will be able to access resources “created for and by local government.” They will also be able to learn from their peers and track their own as well as other vaccination efforts.
It is through partnerships like these, and learning from our colleagues, that we can effect change and reach the residents who most need our help. More importantly, by partnering with the White House, NLC can bring timely and relevant information to cities, towns and villages while creating a space of peer learning on how best to reach small and rural communities, Black, Indigenous and people of color as well as young people.