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What actions health experts, city leaders are working to address COVID vaccine equity in Roanoke

The disparities are prevalent on a number of levels

ROANOKE, Va. – Roanoke city leaders and health experts are teaming up to address inequities in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

“We’re just at the beginning of closing the gap, so I would say we still have an incredible amount of work to do,” said Dr. Cynthia Morrow, the director of the Roanoke City & Alleghany Health Districts.

The disparities are prevalent on a number of levels.

Much of the focus is on the hard-hit African-American and Hispanic communities, targeted specifically through clinics and strike teams that are sharing information and building trust.

“For the past several months, we’ve built this relationship with the various kind of influencers within the community who can then go out into the community and make those connections,” said Bob Cowell, Roanoke City Manager.

Technology is another huge barrier, especially for the elderly and those living in rural areas. One way the city is tackling this problem is through a call center, staffed by library workers to help people sign up, even if they can’t access the internet.

They’re also again connecting with trusted community members.

“We recognize that it’s not something we will be able to fix overnight, but we’ve already started to see the difference that focused, boots-on-the-ground efforts will make,” said Dr. Nathaniel Bishop, the chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for Carilion Clinic.

Work is also being done to address disparities for people with disabilities, even using grant money to make clinics more accessible.

“I’m a little bit hesitant to say where do we still need to address the gaps because we still have a gaping gap in front of us,” Morrow said.

“We are nowhere near where we want to be but we recognize it and we’re committed to making a difference and we are making progress,” Bishop said.

Click here to pre-register for the vaccine.


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