Today, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball discussed the County’s approach for equitable distribution of the vaccine at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia. Ball announced an expansion of the Mobile Integrated Community Health (MICH) unit and $1 million in grants to local organizations to help remove barriers to vaccine access. Additionally, Ball received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to further demonstrate the safety of all the approved vaccines available. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here.
“After nearly a year with COVID-19 in our community, we have seen how starkly this virus has exacerbated the cracks and ruptures already present in Howard County,” said Ball. “Now with expanded eligibility and increasing supply, we must do the hard work of ensuring that communities of color, our more vulnerable residents, neighbors with limited English proficiency, residents of all abilities, and people who have limited access to online registration can get their vaccine.”
COVID-19 Vaccine Data
Howard County has added robust vaccine data to its COVID-19 data dashboard at staycovidsafe.howardcountymd.gov. The data details daily shots administered by the Howard County Health Department, total Howard County residents who have received first or final dose, and demographic details, including age and race.
Establishment of Interagency Vaccine Coordinating Team
County Executive Ball has also established an Interagency Vaccine Coordinating Team to ensure the coordination of outreach activities and to execute more targeted distribution of the vaccine to communities with access challenges or lower vaccine confidence. The Mobile Integrated Community Health unit will expand to bring the vaccine to these targeted areas for distribution, as supply allows.
To date, the MICH unit has vaccinated:
· More than 270 staff and residents at independent congregate living facilities;
· 115 residents in their homes; and
· 270 residents at clinics or in their vehicles.
County Executive Ball announced the Howard County Health Department will be providing $1 million in grant funding to community organizations to support vaccine outreach and education, and to close barriers to access. The grants will be utilized to build community partnerships and ensure vaccine information reaches all corners of Howard County, and especially to communities where English is not a primary language.
“With three safe and effective vaccines at our disposal, we are hopeful that we will be able to get more Howard County residents vaccinated at Health Department sites and at sites in the community,” said Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer. “We encourage people to take advantage of any life-saving vaccine that may be offered.”
“The infrastructure built to reach our hard-to-count or less likely to respond populations during the Census include many of the same communities that have increased vaccine hesitancy, difficulty accessing technology required for vaccine registration and/or lack of transportation to vaccine clinics,” said Stephanie Adibe, Deputy Director of the Department of Community resources and Service. “We are taking a ‘meet you where you are’ approach by leveraging partnerships with faith-community leaders to expand vaccine access in the community for our most vulnerable residents and those whom technology and language may be barriers to accessing the vaccine.”
“It is more critical than ever that we work with our faith community, like St John Baptist Church, to reach out to our impacted communities and ensure equity,” said Stephanie Wall, Outreach Coordinator for the County Executive’s Office. “Local church leaders can play a big role in educating about the vaccination process and assisting with getting people of color and seniors vaccinated.”
“I am so pleased that we were able to welcome thousands of students back into our classrooms for in-person instruction and supports last week,” said Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michael J. Martirano. “The comprehensive efforts to ensure our buildings remain healthy and level of vaccine distribution to school system staff has provided me with an additional level of comfort in reopening schools. We have entered our final tier of staff vaccination and will continue to make appointments available to all remaining staff until everybody who wants the vaccine can receive it.”
“Faith communities are partnering with the local government relying on good science and medicine to increase access and awareness about the Covid-19 vaccine,” said Reverend Dr. Robert Turner, Sr. Pastor of St. John Baptist Church. “We firmly believe that we will not positively impact peoples’ lives during this pandemic, or at any other time, by simply coming to church virtually or in person. However, we will make a positive difference when we take advantage of opportunities like this to be a community access point. That’s why we offer our facility and participate in collaborative service offerings like this.”
“All scientists and health experts agree that getting vaccinated is our only chance to win over COVID 19, so let’s leave our fears aside, let’s show our shoulders, and let’s say yes to life, yes to gathering again, yes to freely hugging our loved ones, and yes to the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Cris Ovideo, La Alianza Latina Co-Chiar. “Let’s take away the “corona” (crown) from coronavirus by getting vaccinated and leaving this pandemic behind.”
“Todos los científicos y expertos de salud coinciden en que ponernos la vacuna es nuestra única oportunidad de vencer al COVID 19, así que dejemos nuestros miedos a un lado, mostremos nuestros hombros, y digamos si a la vida, si a poder reunirnos nuevamente, si a poder abrazar a nuestros seres queridos libremente, y si a la vacuna contra el COVID 19,” said Cris Ovideo, La Alianza Latina Co-Chiar “Vamos a quitarle la corona al coronavirus poniéndonos la vacuna y dejando esta pandemia atrás.”