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Vaccine hesitancy still a concern for health leaders

Vaccination clinics are seeing fewer people.
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Posted at 7:15 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 23:20:50-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Health leaders continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to vaccine hesitancy in the community, and they are finding that incentives and education may not be enough to convince everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We want to keep ourselves safe and everybody else, but I am still hesitant on it," Bronte Catlett of Indianapolis, said. "I'm just kind of like, should I or should I not? Like, what if anything happens down in the long run or something and you know we can't do anything about it."

On Friday, health leaders went door-to-door in the Haughville neighborhood sharing information about the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as an upcoming weekend clinic in the area.

They were prepared for 200 people to get vaccinated at that clinic but only 19 showed up.

"Unfortunately, we found ourselves, because of our history here and because of systemic racism, there has been a lot of harm done and so to repair that trust and repair the harm that has been done, it's going to take time," Brittany Crone, a member of community health outreach at the Christamore House in Haughville said.

She believes more specific education could work.

"Educating on how vaccines are created, what it is actually doing in the body, because otherwise there's a lot of room for misinformation to spread," Crone said.

"Some are still reluctant, a lot of that is based on history and a lot of that we can't change," explained Tony Mason with the Indianapolis Urban League. "Unfortunately, the history and the worries and the concerns that are around are very real, sadly."

Earlier this year, the Indianapolis Urban League teamed up with Walmart to host a six-week community vaccine clinic. They were able to help around 4,000 Hoosiers get vaccinated.

"As I look back at that experience it was great that we were able to do that, but again, I think we all up to this point have been reaching the people who wanted to get vaccinated," Mason said. "Now, it's a bigger challenge to connect with and encourage those individuals who may still be on the fence."

He thinks the temporary pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine hurt efforts, too.

"That was an unfortunate moment because in some ways it gave credence or validation to some fear or worries," Mason said.

As of Monday, 6.2% of vaccinations in Indiana have been given to Black or African American Hoosiers. They make up 9.6% of the state's population.

"It's not surprising and it's disappointing because the reality of it is we know that African Americans have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 virus, and so I hope that as many of us continue with our outreach efforts and as we lean in to talk about how we've been vaccinated and how we are okay, how it's a good thing to do, and how it wasn't painful... hopefully that will help encourage people," Mason said.

Some said they want to learn more before getting their shot, fearing long-term impacts or side effects.

"I know a lot of people have gotten it done, like my mother, but I'm still hesitant about it. I still have a lot of questions," Catlett said. "I'm still not for sure and I still want to see how the trial goes because it is new."

The Indiana State Department of Health is also working to combat vaccine hesitancy by creating video testimonials, which can be viewed here.