Push continues to bring more COVID-19 vaccines to underserved communities on the Suncoast

Push continues to bring more COVID-19 vaccines to underserved communities on the Suncoast
Underserved communities on the Suncoast pushing for more COVID vaccines. (Source: WWSB)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - There is now a strong push to get the COVID vaccine in the arms of people in the underserved communities in Sarasota County and Manatee County.

“It is essential. We are seeing that African Americans are dying at three times the rate as everyone else,” said Dr. Lisa Merritt, executive director of the Multicultural Health Institute. “In our own area, we are having twice the rate of hospitalizations compared to the population and they account for a disproportionate amount of deaths as well.”

Merritt says she has been educating the African American community, giving out masks and hand sanitizer every chance she gets. Other leaders say it’s much more difficult for people in the underserved communities to get the vaccine.

“There may be internet issues that they have. There may be transportation issues that they have,” said Trevor Harvey, president of the Sarasota NAACP. “Many of the individuals in the black and brown communities are multigenerational households.”

Harvey is optimistic more vaccines are coming to these communities very soon. Last Sunday, 257 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered to Newtown residents at the Light of the World Church. That was done together with the Sarasota County Department of Health.

“Now since the vaccine should be expedited, now we have a lot of people that want to take it because they trust it now,” said Thelma Upshaw, a longtime Newtown resident and nurse.

Another vaccination event at Light of the World Church could take place as early as next weekend.

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