Chasing the COVID-19 vaccine: getting minority groups vaccinated

COVID-19 Vaccine

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As many continue to wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine, a local retired clinician and her team are working to get minority communities a fair chance to receive a shot as well.

That group is on Cynthia’s List.

“This is the community’s list. This is a list of people who need and want the vaccine,” Cynthia J. Finch, the community clinician, said.

Finch has a goal to help anyone and everyone get the COVID-19 vaccine, but especially the minority community.

“In the African American community and people of color, people are dying too fast and too quick. The numbers are, I’m going to use the word ‘pitiful,'” Finch said.

She said the same is for the percentage of African Americans who have already had the vaccine.

According to the Knox County Health Department, only 3.4% of those vaccinated within the county are Black; and 14.7% for Multicultural or ‘Other’ ethnicities.

68.9% of those vaccinated in the county are White.

The statistics are similar statewide.

Only 6.83% of those who’ve been vaccinated in the state are Black.

“That number is not acceptable,” Finch said.

So, Finch got together with Connect Ministries, UT Medical Center and city and county leadership to figure out how to close the gap.

Out came the Cynthia List and the Vaccine Project.

“That’s the statement of the day: ‘Can we get on your list? We heard that our friend, our family, got a vaccine with you on yesterday,'” Finch said.

Finch said in order to get the minority communities vaccinated, the vaccinations needed to go to them.

She said it’s all about building relationships, trust, word of mouth and easy access.

“We know that community people listen to people they trust. Their pastors, healthcare clinicians that look like them,” Finch said.

She said that’s why her team and partners go out to the community to talk with people about the importance of the vaccine.

“They’re already hesitant about getting the vaccine. So, when you show up in their neighborhood, with the vaccine, and you’re talking one-on-one; you’re going to their doors or they’re coming to the building which they’re familiar with, then you’re more than likely going to get a success,” Finch said.

Finch said she knows it’s hard for many people to get the vaccine right now.

However, minority communities can’t always travel far to get one, so they don’t try.

“If you have (a clinic) out on Chapman Highway, on Clinton Highway, bus transportation there is limited,” Finch said.

That’s why they have pop-up clinics in the middle of minority communities.

“Just recently we’ve had two clinics. We had one at Mount Olive: 427 people were vaccinated. Majority of those were African Americans. Yesterday, on Mount Calvary on Dandridge Avenue, the pastor, the Reverend Leroy Franklin, allowed us to come and use his facility. UT brought the medicine, the vaccine. We brought the staff, the vaccinators; we had volunteers, we had the set up; we vaccinated 410 people,” Finch said.

Finch also created the list for those who have a hard time with the internet, or always getting a busy tone while calling the health departments.

Here’s how it works: Finch gets a list from a local church, or calls directly at Connect Ministries or on her cell phone, and inputs those name onto her own list.

Finch and her team of volunteers check through the list to make sure they all qualify for the vaccine.

Once the accurate list is confirmed, Finch receives emails or calls from medical partners who have the vaccine (because Connect Ministries nor the Vaccine Project receive the vaccine directly) about available appointments or possible clinics.

When Finch gets the times and number of appointments available, she and her team fills them in with names from her list.

“The difference between our list that we get the list, and we put it on a spread sheet, we send that list, with appointments to our partner, UT hospital, so we are already one step ahead of everybody else. Cause our list is getting prioritized at wherever the partnership is,” Finch said.

Finch said Project Vaccine is hosting another clinic in the Lonsdale community March 3.

To get on Cynthia’s List, you can call 865-851-8005.

So far, Finch has helped more than 1,500 people get vaccinated.

She also hopes to start providing COVID-19 testing at the clinics.

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