On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
For almost a year, Black and brown communities have faced the highest rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Now, they are underrepresented in the number of vaccinated people, at the local and national level.
There are a number of reasons for this: the digital divide which makes it difficult to schedule a vaccine appointment without a speedy internet connection, vaccination centers that are too far away and inaccessible, wait times for a vaccine that can be hours long, and a lack of trust in health systems, just to name a few.
Vaccine hesitancy is a also serious obstacle. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation looked at who wanted to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. While 31% of the overall population said they would “wait and see how the vaccine is working for other people before getting it themselves,” that number jumps to 43% for African-Americans.
Still, for thousands of Black residents in our region who desperately want the vaccine, scoring an appointment remains an overwhelming challenge, and experts continue to point to a lack of vaccine supply as one of the greatest barrier to access. We’re talking with community health leaders about local efforts to ensure vaccine equity.
Produced by Inés Rénique and Lauren Markoe
KOJO NNAMDIIt's now been almost a year with the pandemic, in which black and brown communities have faced the highest rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Now, these same communities are underrepresented among the vaccinated, both in our region and nationwide.
KOJO NNAMDIToday, we're discussing local efforts to bridge that gap and ensure that every last person who wants a coronavirus vaccine is able to access it. Joining me now is Jenny Gathright, who's a reporter for WAMU. Jenny, can you give us a brief update on where we are right now in terms of the vaccine rollout in our region? How many people are vaccinated?
JENNY GATHRIGHTSo, where we're at in terms of the rollout is that many of the local jurisdictions are vaccinated seniors, healthcare workers and other eligible essential workers like teachers, police officers, people who work in grocery stores and others. And in terms of how many people have been vaccinated, our jurisdictions -- D.C., Maryland and Virginia -- are basically tracking each other. So, about 13 percent of the population of Maryland has gotten a first does. In Virginia, about 14 percent of the population.
JENNY GATHRIGHTIn D.C., that number is smaller. It's 7.7 percent of D.C. residents, but D.C. has given out significantly more vaccines than that, because about 40 percent of the city's vaccines have gone to nonresidents, because so many people who work in healthcare and other fields in D.C. live outside of the District. D.C. also expanded its eligibility for appointments today to a much broader swath of residents, people under 65, with certain medical conditions. But the appointment system this morning was plagued with tech problems, so many of those folks weren't actually able to get those appointments today.
JENNY GATHRIGHTBut another thing we're seeing across the board -- and which, of course, this segment is about -- is the fact that across D.C., Maryland and Virginia, we're seeing racial disparities in who is getting the vaccines, with black people getting the vaccine at lower rates, when you compare it to how affected black communities and black neighborhoods have been by the virus.
NNAMDISo, that's what we're seeing in terms of the demographics in the District and Maryland and Virginia. Is that correct?
GATHRIGHTYes. So, there are caveats to the data in D.C., because about 50 percent of the race and ethnicity data is categorized as unknown or other. But because it's such a segregated city, a good proxy for race and also socioeconomics is, of course, ward and neighborhood, and we're seeing clear disparities there. So, just an example of that, at least 50 percent of seniors in Ward 3, which is majority white, have gotten their first dose of the vaccine. But in Ward 8, which is 92 percent black, disproportionately poor, and which has seen the most deaths from COVID of any ward, only about 22 percent of seniors have received their first vaccine dose.
GATHRIGHTAnd in Virginia, early reporting by race and ethnicity shows that black residents have been getting vaccinated at about half the rate of white residents. And in Maryland, there's also a lot of missing data. But if you look at, you know, the doses for whom race has been reported, 18 percent of those doses went to black people in Maryland. But black people make up more than 30 percent of the state's population. So, we are seeing disparities across the board.
NNAMDIThe initial rollout in D.C. was criticized as survival of the fittest, in which only quick fingers and a fast internet connection would get you an appointment. Tell us about recent changes to make access more equitable.
GATHRIGHTRight. A lot of people criticized the initial focus on internet as the way of securing a vaccine appointment, because the digital divide is so strong in the city and so starkly divided by race. So, what D.C. Health did to respond is they started staffing a call center where people can call to get an appointment. And they boosted the staffing for that call center and started setting aside appointments specifically for people who called in on the phone to try and level the playing field there.
GATHRIGHTAlso, they dedicated Thursdays to giving appointments to people in priority zip codes which are, you know, largely in Wards 5, 7 and 8, where we've see lower vaccination rates. And there are also some other efforts that have been specifically targeting black residents, like a pilot that offered 200 vaccine appointments at the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, which is a black church in Ward 7.
GATHRIGHTAnd there are, of course, other methods and other providers who are giving out vaccines and who have adjusted their policies. So, United Medical Center, for example, is one of the hospitals that's been giving out doses. And in February, they started limiting them to just Ward 7 and 8 residents, because they were seeing such a disparity. And I'm sure that our other guests can speak to this more, but the clinics that serve predominantly black and Latino residents in the city have also worked with D.C. Health to make sure that they're getting their actual existing patients, instead of newer white patients who are eager to get the vaccine.
NNAMDI(overlapping) Glad you mentioned our other guests. They are Dr. Ankoor Shah who is the interim principal senior deputy director for D.C. Health, where he's leading the District's coronavirus vaccine program. Dr. Shah, thank you for joining us.
DR. ANKOOR SHAHThank you for having me.
NNAMDIDr. Jessica Boyd is the chief medical officer for Unity Healthcare, a network of community health centers in the District. Dr. Boyd, thank you for joining us.
DR. JESSICA BOYDYes, thank you. I'm happy to be here, as well.
NNAMDIAnd Deneen Richmond is the president of Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center operating in Prince George's and Anne Arundel Counties. Deneen Richmond, thank you for joining us.
DENEEN RICHMONDGood afternoon. Glad to be here.
NNAMDIAnd speaking of Prince George's County, let's hear from Sherry, in Prince George's County. Sherry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHERRYHi, there. Can you hear me?
NNAMDIYes, we can.
SHERRYI just wanted to bring up a reminder. I'm with Prince George's County Health Connect, and we make sure that people are enrolled in health insurance. And a lot of the challenges people are having during COVID is trying to find out how they can access health insurance. And the new administration has extended the period for people to enroll in health coverage, so there's no open enrollment cutoff at this time. So, I just wanted to bring that up, because in Prince George's County, we have a very robust system where people can call in and make sure that they can get health coverage, since we're not seeing people in person.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Deneen Richmond, how important is that?
RICHMONDIt is very important. I know we're, you know, focusing on vaccines today, but really, it's about people having a medical home, people having a connection to the healthcare system. And that's also where they're going to get information and be able to get their questions answered. So, I fully agree with your caller that, yes, we want people to get the vaccines, but we actually want them to have more comprehensive healthcare and have a medical home where they can receive that care.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Sherry. Dr. Shah, can you tell us more about efforts D.C. Health is making to ensure the vaccine is reaching all residents, particularly those of color?
SHAHThank you for the question. Health equity and equity in vaccine access and distribution is part of every decision we make in terms of prioritization, but also how we deliver the doses. So, very briefly, about 30 percent of our doses go directly to our portal, which was discussed earlier, doing priority zip codes. So, ensuring that those that live in highly disproportionately affected zip codes by COVID-19 get access first to the vaccine, having a call center that can take appointments.
SHAHBut then, also, where we strategically put these vaccine centers, partnering with our rec centers, are predominantly in the higher throughput areas or in Ward 5, 7 and 8. But there's a whole other set of vaccine going directly to hospitals and health centers. And the ones that we chose, such as Unity Health Care or Federally Qualified Health Centers, Howard University Hospital, UMC, they serve that population that we want to make sure they have access. And they have the best way to outreach them.
SHAHAnd then we have some vaccine going directly to special initiatives, such as D.C. Housing Authority, where vaccine goes directly to senior housing buildings. Or a faith and vaccine initiative, in which we partner with churches to bring vaccine directly to the church, as well.
NNAMDIThe wards with the highest rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths were also the wards with the smallest percentage of vaccinated residents. I don't want to linger too much in the past, but why wasn't this problem foreseen? Why weren't steps taken to prevent this disparity in vaccine access in the first place? You only have about a minute left in this segment.
SHAHYes. Thank you for the question. The health disparities in the District are vast for all health indicators, for socioeconomic indicators, due to historical systemic structural racism, plus different investments from the private and public sector for decades. The issue with vaccine inequity, we had ideas and we had a plan to ensure there'd be more access in Wards 5, 7 and 8 in the call center, and then reality happens. Higher resource individuals use their competitive advantage to get access to the scarce resource, the vaccine.
SHAHSo, what we do is we have to make changes each week, such as zip codes prioritizations, such as our faith and vaccine initiative...
NNAMDI(overlapping) I'm going to have to interrupt, because we're going to have to take a short break. When we come back, Dr. Shah, you can resume that thought. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing the struggle for vaccine equity. And Dr. Ankoor Shah, I interrupted you. Can you finish the statement you were making before the break?
SHAHI was discussing how we are making special efforts to ensure vaccine access in specifically Wards 5, 7 and 8 in everything we do. And, actually, just to finish that thought, when we talk about other health indicators -- say, for example, pediatric asthma emergency room visits -- the difference between Ward 3 and Ward 8 is 20-fold. So, that is the disparity we have in our health system, currently. So, I believe the efforts we've made actually may have tried to narrow that gap for seniors over 65, even though Ward 3 has about 50 percent of those who've gotten one dose, versus Ward 5, 7 and 8 have about 20 to 28 percent who have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.
NNAMDIDr. Jessica Boyd, tell us about United Healthcare and your recent work to vaccinate black and brown District residents.
BOYDYes. Thank you for the question. And I want to follow up on Dr. Shah's comments, because he has partnered with us to try to improve some of the equity issues, which we saw immediately in the first week of vaccination. So, when we opened up to healthcare workers, we noticed that despite the fact that there are many African-American healthcare workers in the city, that they weren't being able to get appointments with us in the communities where they lived.
BOYDAnd we were able to pivot very quickly, with Dr. Shah's cooperation, to really allow us to vaccinate our patients in our community so that people have access where they lived. And I think that has been really crucial for us. So, I think having access points in Wards 5 and 7 and being able to have very routine clinics, which have hours on weekends and in the evenings to allow people who may have to work and not have as much flexibility to get an appointment for a vaccine in the middle of the day, to have access to that.
BOYDMany of our efforts have focused on education and really building on the relationship that community health centers have as trusted partners to patients to help educate them and help them think through this decision about where to get vaccine, as well as enabling them through many different methods to be able to get access to appointments.
BOYDI think the digital divide really has played a large role, so we have gotten all of our staff to really be ambassadors for this, and not only educate patients, but work with them to get signed up, offer them appointments directly. And since we're able to manage a lot of that scheduling process now for our patients, we're able to do outreach by phone and really target those high-risk groups that have had that disproportionate morbidity and mortality during the pandemic.
NNAMDIDeneen Richmond, you and your colleagues at Doctors Community Medical Center have had to worry about vaccine hesitancy, not only among your patients, but also among staff. Tell us about that. What did you do to confront this?
RICHMONDSure. So, I think, you know, when we think about even our staff -- and I'll start there -- our staff are a reflection of the community. So, you know, we weren't surprised. And, in fact, we prepared to be able to address people's questions. So, when we think about vaccine hesitancy, I think it's important that we acknowledge that it's real, that we treat people with respect and without judgment, that we provide them with information so that they can make informed choices, and make sure that there are a variety of trusted voices delivering those messages.
RICHMONDSo, we've had our medical experts be part of that. We've brought in community experts, people who -- the faith-based community. Our newest partnership is with Lee Temple in Glendale, Maryland, where we also are doing a community-oriented vaccine site. So, it's a real issue, but I actually just want to quickly say that we actually have a bigger issue right now than vaccine hesitancy. And that is that we have more people who want the vaccine than we have supply.
RICHMONDSo, an example of that is last week, we stood up a vaccine clinic at Prince George's Community College targeting Prince George's County residents who are age 75 and over. And by appointment only, we gave out 500 vaccines in a four-hour time period. We could've stayed there all day and given, you know, eight times that amount of vaccine if we had only had the vaccine supply available. So, yes, we need to simultaneously educate and provide information to people who are hesitant and understand their why. But we also just need more vaccine, so that we can get to those who are lining up and waiting their turn and trying to get this vaccine right now.
NNAMDIWant to pursue that issue for a second with Kathy in Ward 4. Kathy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHYHi. Thank you so much. In an effort to be part of the informing consent group, you know, information, I want to tell people that the MR&A vaccine is never -- that technology has never been used in human beings. Dr. Fauci advised Moderna not to test it on animals because when the coronavirus vaccine was attempted several years ago, it was given to animals -- ferrets, I believe. And after they were exposed to the virus, many of those animals died. So, I think...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Allow me to interrupt for a second, Kathy, because as far as I know you are not a scientist. Are you suggesting...
KATHYOh, no, no, no. But I'd advise people to go to Children's Health Defense, and they'll hear lots of scientists. I'm a reader. I'm a mother.
NNAMDI(overlapping) Wait a minute. Let me just -- allow me to just be clear. Are you anti-vaccinations, in general?
KATHYAbsolutely, I am. I am.
NNAMDIYes, I thought as much. Well, allow me to have one of our -- Deneen Richmond, how would you respond to somebody like Kathy?
RICHMONDWell, you know, I think that is important to, you know, instead of painting a broad brush -- and I am not an infectious disease physician, so I'm not going to pretend to be one. But I think that there's misinformation that's out there. And some of it just needs to be corrected with the scientific facts around what truly happened during the clinical trial, what safety mechanisms were in place, and broadly getting this information out there so the people can truly make an informed decision based on the facts. I think it's so important that we ground ourselves in facts and information.
NNAMDIYes. Because I think Kathy wasn't just talking about this vaccination. There is, as you know, a movement of so-called anti-vaxxers, anti-vaccination. There's an anti-vaccination movement that's been going on in this country for decades, and Kathy has essentially said, yes, she is a part of that movement. Kathy, thank you for your call. Let's move onto Lavern in Washington, D.C. Lavern, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAVERNYes. Hi. I am addressing the fact that there's uneven distribution of the medication or the vaccine in certain communities. And I go back to say, not too long ago, everyone was saying that black are monolithic and the reason that we had vaccine hesitancy is because of the Tuskegee Study. And they kept on hammering that, hammering that, hammering that. That is not the only reason.
LAVERNWe're not monolithic. A lot of us were hesitant because we know of aftermarket studies of many drugs where drugs have had to be recalled because of serious side effects. And so, a lot of blacks were willing to sit and wait to see what happened. Now, in light of that and in light of the consensus that people of color did not want to be vaccinated, it's, I believe, no surprise that when it came to allocation of the vaccines, that they would decrease the amount that would be sent to areas where people of color were the majority.
LAVERNSo, why is it a surprise that there are fewer vaccines available to these individuals? It should be that they were wrong, they realized that they were wrong in concluding that people of color -- and black, in particular -- did not want the vaccine. We did want the vaccine, but everyone assumed that we did not, because they kept beating that Tuskegee Study over and over. And we are more intelligent than that.
NNAMDII want to get two responses to that. Jenny Gathright, can you talk a little bit about the Tuskegee Study and whether we are learning to write lesson from it?
GATHRIGHTSure. So, yeah, it's true that a lot of people, including journalists, have been citing this experiment. It started in the 1930s. The Federal Public Health Service, which eventually became the CDC, conducted a medical experiment on hundreds of black men in rural Alabama with syphilis. And the government denied these men treatment in an effort to study the course of the disease. And it was cruel and horrible, I mean, because if left untreated, syphilis can lead to strokes, blindness and death.
GATHRIGHTBut I think it's important to note that there's research that suggests this study might not actually be what's driving, you know, any black people's hesitancy about the vaccine. And a Johns Hopkins researcher found that people who haven't heard of Tuskegee are more likely to distrust medical research. And experts say, I mean, there are plenty of current examples of inequity in medicine that could be driving people's distrust in the healthcare system today.
GATHRIGHTWe don't have to look far. D.C. has a high rate of maternal mortality among black women. Communities east of Anacostia River don't have adequate access to healthcare. So, there are plenty of reasons to distrust the system today, but I think that, you know, multiple people have made this point including the caller and including Deneen Richmond that, you know, there's also this broader point about access. It's important to underscore that there are plenty. And in my reporting, I've spoken to plenty of black people who are really eager to get the vaccine, but they've experienced barriers to access and actually securing an appointment.
NNAMDIDr. Shah, our caller Lavern says there was a misconception that there was a consensus in the black community against vaccines and, therefore, vaccines were apparently deliberately not sent to black communities. True or false?
SHAHSo, in the District of Columbia, that is not true. As you could see by where we were actually placing the vaccine, we are heavily, heavily putting as many doses and ensuring there's access points in those communities that have been hardest-hit by the coronavirus, specifically communities of color, as well. But I do want to talk about this point of access because what we've done, is we've put the doses there. We've partnered with our wonderful health centers, like Unity Healthcare, for example. And then we developed these initiatives.
SHAHWe have high un-insurance rates. So, you have insurance card, you have the doses, you have the health center, but you can't stop there. That's what we're learning. It's about every part of that access map, whether it's transportation, care coordination, every part of it to ensure that folks have the ability to have the vaccine, which includes vaccine confidence and making sure people are empowered to have all their questions answered so they can make an informed decision on the vaccine.
NNAMDIHere is Dana in Bethesda, Maryland. Dana, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANAGood morning, everyone. My question is in reference to whether or not anyone's doing any demographic studies on people who have died because of the vaccine. And I don't hear any data on that. Also, I have an autoimmune disease. I also have diabetes. I am trying to get a feel for with people with underlying conditions, what is their reaction to it?
DANAWhen I had tried to inquire before they're like, oh, we don't think that particular people was studied when they were testing the vaccine. That particular group wasn't studied. How can we get definitive information about that, so we can come to a conclusion as to whether it will be good for us to get the vaccine or not?
NNAMDIDr. Jessica Boyd.
BOYDYes. Thank you for the question. I think it's very important. And one of the things that we're trying to help inform and educate our patients is understanding that as we roll out the vaccine to millions and millions of people, we're getting more information about what the side effects will be and are able to track events, whether it be developing COVID or more serious adverse effects like death.
BOYDAnd so, I have been following some of the studies -- and Dr. Shah might have more recent data -- but I think there have been a few deaths during this period, but actually at a rate lower than they would expect in the general rate. So, they haven't attributed those deaths to the vaccine. But it's important for us to continue to monitor the situation and learn about the vaccines. But millions of people have received the vaccine at that point. I think that it's great to continue to collect that information.
NNAMDIDr. Shah, care to add to that?
SHAHI think we only have two doors to go into when it's your turn to get the vaccine. Get the vaccine, try to help us get out of this pandemic by protecting yourself, your family and your community. And the other door, not getting the vaccine, we actually know exactly what that door looks like because we've been living it for the last year in this horrible pandemic that's hurt our families, our friends and our community. So, when it's that binary choice, I know, for myself and my family, I always recommend door number one, the one with the vaccine.
NNAMDIDeneen Richmond, Prince George's County is Maryland's second-most populated county and ranks last in the percentage of its population vaccinated. Why is the county lagging so far behind, and what can be done?
RICHMONDSo, I think that it's a couple of different things that are contributing to that. So, one, I just want to emphasize again, that the demand is here -- I'm in Prince George's County, I live and work in the county and the demand is here. I think, earlier on, there were barriers that people faced based on how the system was set up for people to register, knowing where to go to register.
RICHMONDSo, I think I remember Jenny in her opening talked about the survival of the fittest. And I will definitely tell you that that is part of what we were seeing, that particularly as we were reaching out to the elderly residents, you know, they may not have had a computer or someone -- you know, a grandchild or someone who could readily assist them. And when we talk about our vulnerable populations, maybe they don't have easy access to the internet.
RICHMONDSo, I think it's so important that we customize our strategies to make sure that we're not leaving anyone behind. And that's some of the work that we've done here at Luminis Health, by partnering with various community partners, by, you know, putting the voice of trusted individuals and influences out there. By implementing a mobile community effort where our community health team goes to some of our most vulnerable communities and gives them the vaccine right where they live, so that they don't have to worry about transportation and other barriers, or even how to get in line to fight against everyone else who's trying to get the vaccine.
RICHMONDAnd then we've increased our analytics over the last several weeks, so that we really can target both proactively and based on those who register on our site who we're prioritizing to reach. And all of those efforts, I think, are going to help us moving forward.
NNAMDIBy the way, Prince George's County does have a mass vaccination site at the Six Flags America amusement park. Is that a good option for Prince George's County residents trying to get vaccinated?
RICHMONDI think every site that is available is a good option, but you just have to remind people that while the Six Flags site is physically located in Prince George's County, it is a statewide site. So, you don't necessarily get advantages of being able to get an appointment quicker just because -- you know, at that particular site just because you live in the county. So, we need to make sure that we have other community-based sites available that are truly going to be able to provide that access to all of our Prince George's County residents.
NNAMDIHere now is Jaime in Washington, D.C. Jaime, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAIMEHi, Kojo. Yeah, so, yesterday, I got an email from D.C. Health saying that I was eligible for the vaccine for today. And I tried to sign up and, you know, I couldn't do it. And tomorrow they're saying that they're opening vaccination appointments to all of D.C. So, now are those wards that were previously prioritized not being prioritized anymore, or how is that working?
NNAMDII'm glad this question came up, because, as what was mentioned in the beginning of the show, there was a technical failure in the morning with our technology partner in how this portal set up. And I'll tell you my emotions that this morning were probably similar across the District. I felt angry, upset, sad and bewildered and baffled that this could happen. What I can tell you is that we are actively making sure, tomorrow, that does not happen, and figuring out how to make what happened today, for you specifically, as well as other Washingtonians with chronic medical conditions who were unable to have access to disparity zip codes, how can we correct that, as well.
NNAMDIYes. Because we got a tweet from Marie, who says that trying to register for the vaccine today in D.C. was a disaster. I called the listed number to make a vaccine appointment. Either the circuits were too busy, or the phone recording stated the number is nonexistent. Go figure. There has to be a better way to register. Dr. Shah, what you are saying is that you're hoping that all of that is corrected by tomorrow.
SHAHYes. And we are working on getting a new registration tool that separates registration from scheduling. These national technology companies that have developed these programs have coupled registration and scheduling. And every state is working with them to try to un-decouple that, as well. So, I am incredibly disappointed, and I sincerely apologize for all the -- I mean, it was heartbreaking, I'm sure, as people go through trying to get their vaccine appointment and get denied. And we are actively working how we can fix what happened today, not only for tomorrow, but then also make it up, as well. And we hope to have more information on that.
NNAMDIHere's Kathy in Ward 6. Kathy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHYThank you so much. I'm a member at Shiloh Baptist Church and I did receive the vaccine at the Howard University School of Medicine. It was a wonderful experience. I've used every day a powerful tool. It's called prayer, and I had to pray on getting the vaccine because I thought about what happened since Tuskegee.
KATHYOne of the things that bothers me is how everything, it says go to a computer. I'm 80 years of age. That's no excuse. I will be 81 on Saturday. When I dialed the number that they said to dial, because I don't have a computer, that almost took me out of here. First of all, by the time you get through, all the appointments are taken up. Why can't they simply give a phone number, and I must say, if anyone else ever goes to Howard University to the -- it was wonderful. I'd do it again. And I am no lover of needles, believe me.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Kathy. And I'm glad Kathy mentioned her church, Deneen Richmond, because tell us about your collaborations with faith-based organizations in order to reach the black community, and why that outreach is so important.
RICHMONDYes. I put this in the category of how important it is to have trusted voices. And for some people, that could be a healthcare professional, for others it can be their pastor. So, we are so fortunate here at Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center that we have a partnership with Lee Temple AME Church in Glendale, Maryland.
RICHMONDAnd when we launched that clinic a couple of Fridays ago, it was so powerful, because not only did Pastor Whitlock share his own story of getting the vaccine and his own story of family loss with his mom dying from COVID early in the year -- so he was, you know, an example and I'm an example. I've received my vaccine, as well. But we had probably 30 to 40 other ministers and pastors there who all stood in unity to say, you know, this is what we need in our community. This is what's going to allow us to not be the statistics.
RICHMONDAnd this is what is going to allow us to all get back to the life that we want to have, to be able to get back into our churches. To be able to hug our family members and have family gatherings. So, having that faith-based partner in Lee Temple is just a tremendous asset to all of us. And, once again, it gives people a location to come to that they trust, that's accessible to them, and where, once again, they can connect with the trusted voices in the church.
NNAMDIAnd I know, Dr. Shah, there are similar efforts in D.C., as well, a pilot program to partner with churches and a second church added to the program. But we're running out of time very quickly. So, Deneen, before we go, you talk about the wait-and-see group. Who is that, and how do you plan to reach out to them?
RICHMONDSo, I would say that right now, the elderly, I'm not putting in that category. They really want the vaccine. I think there are some younger individuals and some individuals who aren't eligible yet, and some who are, that are in that wait and see. And I think we need to understand what their reasons are, not act like they all have the same exact reason, provide them with resources. Listen to them without being judgmental or dismissive. And it's not a one-and-done conversation. We have to be willing to roll up our sleeves and continue these conversations until everyone has all the information that they need to make the best informed decision for themselves.
NNAMDIDeneen Richmond, thank you so much for joining us.
RICHMONDThank you for having me.
NNAMDIDr. Jessica Boyd, thank you for joining us.
BOYDThank you very much.
NNAMDIDr. Ankoor Shah, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd, Jenny Gathright, always a pleasure. Thank you, Jenny.
GATHRIGHTThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIThis segment about vaccine equity was produced by Ines Renique and Lauren Markoe. And our conversation about the District's secrete morgue for those who died of COVID was produced by Kurt Gardinier. Coming up tomorrow on The Politics Hour, D.C. Councilmember Robert White is concerned about racial bias and policing. We'll talk with him about that and District oversight of D.C. Public Schools.
NNAMDIAnd Virginia is set to be the first southern state to abolish the death penalty. State Senator Scott Surovell joins us to discuss that, marijuana legalization, and more. That all starts at noon, tomorrow. Until then, thank you for listening, and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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