"Unfortunately, whenever you look at vaccination rates by race or ethnicity, you see a clear disparity."

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Since the COVID-19 vaccine became available, there have been plenty of questions. And there have been stories from people on how it affects them, hoping to give the public an idea of what to expect after it is available to the public.

“Unfortunately, whenever you look at vaccination rates by race or ethnicity, you see a clear disparity,” said Dr. Alfred L’atrelli, Administering Director of UPMC South Side.

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But many of those still in limbo are in underserved and minority communities. There’s been a lot of history that points to health care mistrust in those areas.

So UPMC figured the best way to give them confidence in the vaccine was to vaccinate the health care workers who live and work in the same communities.

The COVID-19 vaccine shots given Tuesday had a little more meaning than keeping these community health care workers safe. It’s encouragement for others.

“It elevates this idea that health is not just within the health care system, health is within communities and community health care workers are essential for health care infrastructure,” said Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Maya Ragavan.

Ragavan is a health equity researcher and part of a community vaccine collaborative who works with community health leaders to address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 in minority communities.

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She works with people like Richard Garland who got the vaccine and is part of the COVID-19 Black Equity Coalition.

“I always tell people I’ll keep it a hundred, but this wasn’t bad. It was like taking a flu shot for me,” said Garland.

They know it’s not only COVID-19 but other underlying health issues that have impacted the neighborhoods they know best. That’s why the vaccination process is a show and tell process, to educate and make information available to those looking for it. To let them know although it affects everybody differently, it’s safe.

“The more I look at the numbers in the increase of people that are contacting COVID-19, the more I’m trying to get to take this shot,” said Garland

“The community health care workers that are getting vaccinated today are trusted members of their communities and then they can share what their story is like getting vaccinated and share that with folks in their community that trust them,” said Ragavan.

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Dr. L’altrelli said they want to keep making a push in these underserved communities. He believes they are off to a good start. There’s been a higher community acceptance rate of those willing to take the vaccine, somewhere in the mid to high 80s.