In St. Louis, like in many places across the U.S., low-income communities and communities of color have disproportionately shouldered the burden of COVID-19 sickness and death and now face inequities in COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Data from a January 2021 survey revealed that of 17,000 individuals who registered their interest in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, less than 3,000 were from under-resourced and low-income neighborhoods such as North St. Louis.
Leaders like Dr. Fredrick Echols with the City of St. Louis Department of Health were determined to demonstrate the need to proactively engage and outreach to communities most disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Echols has also worked to counter dominant narratives of vaccine hesitancy among communities of color, especially Black communities. With the strategic engagement of the Alana Green, Executive Director of the St. Louis Housing Authority, and staff from their Resident Initiatives Team, they were able to reach Housing Authority residents by phone and assist them in setting up appointments to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. Engaging the Housing Authority as a trusted partner and messenger for this community resulted in the ability to vaccinate over 300 seniors in just one clinic effort, roughly 98% of whom identified as Black/African American! An invite only follow-up vaccination clinic with Housing Authority residents resulted in a 96.3% return ratefor the second dose of COVID vaccinations. The partnership between the Health Department and Housing Authority has yielded other promising benefits to housing authority residents, including food distribution, distribution of personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing and now the COVID-19 vaccine. This partnership serves as a promising model for intra-governmental partnerships to reach disproportionately impacted community members in vaccine distribution and administration.