“This is very important to us,” she said, “part of what we as public health officials feel is critical.”
To date, white residents of Lancaster County have received 90.5% of the vaccine doses administered, while comprising 80.7% of the county’s population, Health Department records show.
Nonwhite residents, however, have disproportionally come down with COVID-19, accounting for 29% of the county’s confirmed cases.
Combs emphasized that Wednesday’s clinic at the northeast Lincoln church was not organized to try to force the vaccine onto people, but instead to make it more easily available to those who want to receive it.
“Our job is not to force anybody’s hand, but to engage in advocacy and access,” he said. “When you give access, people have the right to say no to it, the right to reject it, and we have to be OK with that decision.”
However, Combs said most people he talked to responded enthusiastically to getting the vaccine, which he said signaled a change in the Black community’s trust of the medical system.
“I think that this shows that there is some degree of turnaround that’s taking place, that our community is starting to trust not just the science but also our public health officials,” he said.
The success of the clinic provides hope for further building trust between the local Black community and the Health Department, Combs said.