Communities of color reluctant to get vaccine as Lehigh County gets 15,000 shots in arms

Written by on March 8, 2021

Communities of color reluctant to get vaccine as Lehigh County gets 15,000 shots in arms

By Ben Stemrich

March 8, 2021

A nurse administers the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. U.K. health authorities rolled out the first doses of a widely tested and independently reviewed COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, starting a global immunization program that is expected to gain momentum as more serums win approval. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, Pool)

The Allentown Health Bureau has administered more than 15,000 vaccines so far, and thousands more are scheduled this week. However, communities of color are still on the fence about getting the first shot.

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Rever Liverman is a Black woman who lives in Allentown. On March 5, she got her first Moderna shot at the Agricultural Hall at the Allentown Fairgrounds

But, Liverman says, she was not nervous.

“Not really. I’ve been impatiently waiting, so I wasn’t afraid. I’m scared to take needles but I wasn’t afraid this time.”

But some public officials, like Allentown School Board member Phoebe Harris, say some people of color have been reluctant to get vaccinated.

“They are scared that something is going to happen, there’s something more to it. There’s all this stuff on the Internet and it’s just bull, it’s just awful that this is being seen as a conspiracy,” Harris says. 

Harris hopes more people of color will sign up for the vaccine because she worries about the impacts of COVID-19 particularly on Black and Hispanic communities.

“This is life or death. We are taking this very seriously,” Harris says. 

Allentown offers information about the vaccine in multiple languages. City officials are trying to get the word out in places like city hi-rise buildings that house predominantly Hispanic seniors. 

Vicky Kistler, director of the Allentown Health Bureau says they’ve officially administered 15,000 vaccinations and even more options will be available late this spring once the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available in this region.

“The vaccine supplies this week have been greater than any week preceding. So, we have posted over 2,000 appointments on our website and we have the call center scheduling 2,000 appointments for the next week coming. So, we will see those numbers increase,” Kistler says. 

Nearly a third of the people who attended the clinic at Ag Hall on March 5 were there for second shots. 

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m overwhelmed by the kindness and appreciation that is expressed by the citizens who are vaccinated, and I’m overwhelmed by the spirit of teamwork. We have now weathered 30-inch snowstorms, ice storms outside. More people needing a wheelchair than we had wheelchairs,” Kistler says. 

Right now the bureau is still administering the vaccine to those in tier 1A which is the high priority group.

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