How can Kansas’ best reach herd immunity, a level of vaccination where COVID-19 is considered under control? By insuring vaccination across all of the state’s demographic groups and Gov. Laura Kelly recognizes that point. That’s why Gov. Kelly ap-pointed a COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Taskforce and met with community organizations like the Wichita Black Nurses, who have successfully vaccinated more than 1,500 members of the Wichita community – most of them Black – through church-based vaccination efforts. Gov. Kelly’s Vaccine Equity Taskforce is composed of leaders from diverse organizations, including physicians, nurses, community organizers, faith leaders, researchers, and also state and local public health leaders. Their goal is to work together to vaccinate Kansans at highest risk for COVID-19.
The group is tasked with breaking down barriers to vaccination, such as access, transportation, language barriers, or misinformation; and providing information and messages that resonate with Kansans who have questions about the vaccine. In collaboration with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, this effort is spearheaded by Dr. Marci Nielsen, Chief Adviser to the Governor for COVID-19 Coordination and Dr. Ximena Garcia, Special Adviser to the Governor for COVID-19 Vaccination Equity. Gov. Kelly and Dr. Garcia, met with more than two dozen members of the Wichita Black Nurses, and the ministers of the five churches where the nursing organization has held vaccination clinics. Gov. Kelly wanted to learn more about the nurses’ successful efforts that have vaccinated more than 1,150 and hear other ideas from the group on how more African Americans might be reached.
Maggie Thompson, a lead organizer with the Black nurses suggested getting more of the smaller churches to co-sponsor vaccination clinics. Rev. Dr. Broderick Huggins, senior pastor of St. James Missionary Baptist Church, Wichita, where the first Black Nurses vaccine clinic was held, suggested streamlining the process of organizing and coordinating the vaccination clinics. He said, he was able to get the clinic organized thanks to help of a Black nurse who is a member of his church. That’s not the case for all churches, he said. In addition, the vaccines must be administered by a registered health professional and all clinics must be coordinated through an organization with a source of vac-cines, such as a medical clinic. The Black Nurses coordinated all of their clinics with the Sedgwick County Health Department.
State Rep. Gail Finney (D-Wichita) said successful efforts must reach beyond churches, since so many people are currently unchurched. Lavonta Williams, representing the Wichita NAACP, suggested providing the organizations additional resources, such as masks, clip boards, and miscellaneous supplies.