Local doctors want to obtain COVID-19 vaccine to help underserved communities
Doctors working in underserved neighborhoods say that they want to be included in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout process.
The doctors say that they want to help, but that the doses haven’t made it to their offices.
A medical group in East Orange tells News 12 New Jersey that they were promised 600 doses of the vaccine in December. But months later that promise has yet to be kept. They say that it is their patients who are suffering.
“It’s kind of consistent how COVID has been from the beginning,” says Dr. Alexander Salerno, of Salerno Medical Associates. “We struggled to get protective gear. We struggled to get adequate testing samples and now we’re struggling to get the vaccines.”
Salerno says that the government has yet to make good on a promise of vaccines that they made last year.
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“We were approved when we applied back in late 2020 as a site to receive vaccines and now we’re in mid-April and we still haven’t received one dose of any vaccine,” Salerno says.
Officials say that Black and brown communities have been the hardest hit during the pandemic. But as more members of those communities are encouraged by churches and clergy to receive the vaccine, community-based primary care physicians say that they should be included when vaccines touch down locally. They say that it increases access to underserved communities through their offices.
“Primary care centers were a place of treatment and a place the patients can go to because they had confidence and they had relationships no different than you would with a pastor or a barber or anyone else,” says Salerno.
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Vaccination rates are still below-average in some communities and though megasites are now open, there are still residents who have trouble getting to the vaccination sites.
“I know a lot of people that are looking for the shot and they gotta travel and they don’t have no way to get there,” says Keith Fields, of East Orange. “The more local spots, the easier it is for people to get it.”
A lack of transportation is one of the biggest issues preventing some from getting the vaccine. Patients say that it is easier for them to get to their local doctor’s office instead of looking for transportation to one of the vaccine sites outside of their neighborhood.
They say that the doctor would be able to better accommodate patients with flexible hours.