COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio Council of Urban Leagues is calling on the state of Ohio to step up when it comes to vaccinating the Black community.
“It’s a little disappointed and concerned about the rollout of vaccinations in the African American community,” said Stephanie Hightower, President and CEO of Columbus Urban League, when asked what she thinks of the vaccination distribution.
The Ohio Council of Urban Leagues wrote a letter to the Gov. Mike DeWine saying “Governor DeWine, you have a critical opportunity to act and address the disparate impact COVID-19 has on Black Ohioans.” The league went on to write, “We urge you to prioritize Black Ohioans, who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 complications and deaths, for COVID-19 vaccination distribution.”
On Monday, the Ohio Department of Health held a town hall for the African American community, where people could get answers to their questions. However, Hightower said they want to see more of an effort, including lowering the age required for African Americans to receive the vaccine to 50 years old.
“Our communities have been hit hard,” Hightower said. “We now know that we’ve lost three years on our life expectancy. They need to step it up.”
In the letter, the group outlines three other steps the state can take to make the vaccination process an equal one:
- Reprioritization of the vaccination distribution to include racial and ethnic minorities who COVID-19 disproportionately impacts.
- Implement mandatory training at the state and local level for vaccination data collection to ensure best practices for data collection for race and ethnicity.
- Collaboration with trusted entities in Black communities, outside of medical institutions, to accelerate vaccination distribution in predominately Black communities.
When asked at his Monday COVID-19 briefing if he would consider the proposal to lower the age, DeWine did not respond to the question, but did say he is working with mayors and county commissioners on a plan for underserved communities.
“They came forward with a plan and we said, ‘Look, we will back you on this plan in these urban communities, where you have significant minority population,’” DeWine said.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther’s office said in a statement, “Mayor Ginther and Dr. Roberts continue to work collaboratively with the state to explore creative ways to vaccinate underserved residents, but they have not sent a proposal to the Governor.”