Paterson mayor working to encourage Black residents to get COVID-19 vaccine
There is growing concern that Black New Jersey residents are getting vaccinated at lower rates than other demographics.
Paterson officials say that they have noticed a significant lack of African American residents at their vaccination site and are working to do something about it.
Eric Spann is a counselor at a halfway house in Paterson. He admits that it took a lot of convincing from a trusted doctor that he works with for him to get his first dose of the vaccine.
“I’m very skeptical because of past things that happened,” Spann said. “It bothered me and got me scared because I might be experimented on. But I have to put my faith and trust in someone.”
RELATED: School officials say vaccinating teachers against COVID-19 best chance to return to in-person learning
Spann represented many African Americans who have a long distrust of the health care system and vaccinations in particular. There is also fear, apathy, and in many communities, a lack of information and education about the vaccine.
The New Jersey COVID dashboard shows that as of Wednesday, 3% of the vaccinations have gone to Black New Jersey residents. Hispanics make up 5%. White residents have received almost 50% of the shots so far.
“We’re looking at data – 95% of the people vaccinated on Friday were Latino. Less than 5% were African American,” says Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh. “We have work to do.”
Sayegh says that he is already working to get minorities – specifically Black residents – at the vaccine sites to get the shots as soon as possible. He is hoping to have familiar faces to get the job done.
“I’ve called Dwight Gooden – former New York Mets star – and asked if he’d help. Reached out to Victor Cruz and Saquon Barkley to help us,” the mayor says.
Spann is also doing his part, by encouraging others in his own community to get the vaccine.
“Come and get the vaccine, because a lot of people died because of this epidemic and we’re here not to let their death go in vain,” he says.
Sayegh says Black men are the most under-represented demographic at his city's vaccination sites. He is expected to make another announcement about the city’s walk-up vaccination program on Friday.
Gov. Phil Murphy says he's not a fan of the first come, first served site and would prefer to see it appointment-based.