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As coronavirus surges, volunteer group working to address vaccine doubts among Black Anne Arundel residents

A volunteer organization for Black women is launching a campaign to reduce hesitancy about the coronavirus vaccine among Black Anne Arundel County residents.

The county chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women has started “We Care,” an encouragement effort organizers said will use culturally-based messaging to provide insights so individuals can make personal decisions on being vaccinated for the virus.

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“The community is skeptical of getting the vaccine, I am going to take it and I will encourage all my friends to as well,” said Christine Davenport, president of the chapter.

Anne Arundel County confirmed 425 new coronavirus cases and three new deaths Sunday, the latest sign that the post-holiday surge predicted by health officials has arrived and continues to grow.

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Black people make up 17% of the county population but they make up 22% of cases overall. In the last four weeks, 28% of all deaths have been Black People.

Statewide, the Black community has 87,442 confirmed cases and 2,220 deaths. The state says 20,049 Black people have had their initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Maryland.

The positivity rate in the county Black population is current 10%, according to the county Health Department, and 14% in the Hispanic community. The World Health Organization projects the positivity rate in the Black community should be 5%.

Yet, Covid-19 vaccine distrust is high among Black Americans after years of being underserved or poorly served by the medical system.

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Those with hesitancy regarding the vaccines will have the opportunity to learn specific questions that can be asked of medical providers with information to dispel myths or rumors about the vaccines, the organization said in announcing the campaign.

Davenport said she’s never has got a flu shot and was hesitant as the vaccine started to become available, but after doing research she plans to get the vaccine when it is available.

She believes the advantages of the vaccine outweigh the disadvantages.

“If you take the vaccine you have a better chance of surviving and I want the better chance of surviving,” she said.

The We Care project is for people to care about others and Davenport is stressing that to the community. She wants the project to spread all around Anne Arundel County.

“If you care about others it will come back to you. We are saying we care about all people and lets pass the message to everyone we come in contact with,” Davenport said.

The county Health Department already has administered 483 vaccines to department employees and public safety workers and plans to vaccinate 1,000 more this week.

The county has received 2,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine and will get 200 more, along with 4,875 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine. Next week, the health department will vaccinate more than 3,000 health care workers and Maryland Judiciary staff members. The county fire department will vaccinate 2,000 first responders, and the state corrections department will vaccinate 1,000 staff members and inmates.

The county is still moving through Phase 1a, the first tier of vaccine priorities, which includes frontline health care workers at the county’s two main hospitals, other health care workers at private practices, health department employees, long-term care facility residents and staff, first responders, judiciary workers and prison populations.

A number of essential workers are next in line for vaccinations as a part of Phase 1B, set to begin at the end of January. This group includes teachers, food and agriculture workers, members of the U.S. Postal Service, manufacturing workers, grocery store employees, public transportation workers and those age 75 and older.

Capital reporter Danielle Ohl contributed to this report.

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