A new public service announcement from the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) aims to encourage vaccinations among Marylanders by highlighting support from community voices. The 30-second PSA features Baltimore City National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President, Reverend Kobi Little, as a GoVAX ambassador.
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In the video, Rev. Little says he received two vaccine doses as well as a booster, and urged members of his community to do the same.
“I encourage people who are experiencing fear about vaccination to reach out to trusted members in the community,” said Rev. Little as part of the MDH announcement. “Talk to people who have gotten vaccinated. Reach out to health care professionals. Ask someone to go with you if that’s what you need to get across the finish line. Please get vaccinated.”
MDH said the partnership with Baltimore City NAACP is a “concentrated effort” to raise vaccination rates among Black Marylanders. The Maryland COVID-19 Data Dashboard shows approximately 1.2 million African American Marylanders have received at least one vaccine dose.
Compared to state population estimates from the Census Bureau, that means about 600,000 Black Marylanders have not received their first dose. The Census Bureau estimate refers to population numbers for only non-Hispanic Black Marylanders, while the vaccination count on the state dashboard may include both Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black Marylanders.
MDH detailed other outreach efforts made in partnership with NAACP, such as driving a sound truck through certain ZIP codes. The truck would relate the significance of getting vaccinated and slowing the spread of COVID-19. Volunteers would follow the truck route and pass out free face masks and educational materials.
Community-centered public health campaigns are key to impacting health outcomes. For example, a vaccination campaign from the Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) partnered public health workers with local barber shops and beauty salons in Prince George’s County, which were strong points of community for the county’s primarily Black population.
Through the partnership, M-CHE authored a report identifying barriers that kept residents from getting vaccinated, including specific language and phrasing used to communicate health information.
Other organizations are also acknowledging the importance of a culturally competent health care system. In one of Maryland Hospital Association President and CEO Bob Atlas’ weekly messages, he noted the lack of Black representation in the health care workforce.
“As we celebrate the tremendous contributions and excellence of the African American population during Black History month, we commit to doing a better job recruiting talent from communities of color and creating pathways for more diverse caregivers to join and to rise through our ranks,” his message read.