RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — WakeMed typically offers vaccine appointments to patients, but the hospital made an exception on Sunday to reach people in underserved communities.
“We know not just Black and brown communities, but even specific zip codes in this area have been really disproportionately impacted from an economic standpoint, from a hospitalization standpoint, and even from a death standpoint from COVID-19,” said Dr. Rasheeda Monroe, medical director of primary care pediatrics at WakeMed.
Dr. Monroe helped coordinate a team to find people in those communities and schedule them to get the vaccine.
WakeMed President and CEO Donald Gintzig said the goal is to vaccinate people in an equitable way.
“There are a lot of African American churches and community organizations we are reaching out to, to make sure some of the most vulnerable, and some of those that are forgotten, are able to get access to the vaccine,” he said.
Monroe said within 40 hours, they were able to schedule 700 appointments for people who live in underserved communities.
“I would say over 75% of the total volume who are getting vaccinated today, were registered through that specific community outreach effort, in the Black community and Hispanic community specifically,” Monroe said.
Larry Shealdy, 83, showed up to get his first dose on Sunday.
“I’m in that category with underlying conditions and I’ve been anxious to get this,” said Shealdy, a Raleigh resident who said he’s most looking forward to seeing his grandchildren again. “It’s good to get this out of the way and look forward to dose number two in three weeks.”
Similar to the Wake County Health Department’s strategy, WakeMed’s vaccine appointments are open to people 65 and up, but those who are older or who live in zip codes where COVID-19 rates are high, will get appointments first.
“We have some zip codes here where a lot of folks don’t make it to 65, we have zip codes where the life expectancy is 10 years different two miles apart,” Gintzig said of why the hospital chose this strategy.
“So, if you try to set it arbitrarily at a certain age, you will forget and miss those that aren’t able to have a car to drive-thru, that aren’t able to go online and schedule an appointment,” Gintzig added.