Across the country, minority groups are having harder times accessing COVID-19 vaccines, but officials from the North Dakota Department of Health say they are making sure that everyone has access here.
As the North Dakota Department of Health moves through the vaccine priority groups, a team is focusing on reducing health disparities and making sure all people understand the importance of the vaccine.
“The main focus of that plan are some specific groups. So we are looking at the new American immigrant foreign-born group, the Black group, American Indians, persons with disabilities. We are also looking at some other special populations such as the LGBTQ, homeless, aging and also individuals who induct drugs,” said Krissie Guerard, the Health Equity Director for the NDDOH.
The Health Equity Director for the Department says one of their top priorities is community engagement like finding out why certain groups are not being vaccinated.
“So really right now we’re focusing on that community engagement and then the next steps we’ll be getting contracts together to really increase those vaccination rates because from our standpoint, our efforts aren’t going to be as effective without the input from the community we’re targeting,” said Guerard.
And working with community partners like tribal nations who had the option to either go through the state’s Department of Health for doses or receive them from the federal level.
MHA Nation says they chose to work with the state because of all the teamwork.
“Especially in the areas of our mass COVID-19 testing. Working with the local district health unit. Working with Army National Guard. We saw great partnership with them,” explained Emily Sitting Bear, the MHA Emergency Operation Center Director.
Even though the tribal nation is working with the state as a minority race that has been hit hard by the virus, its top priority is to have vaccinations available to everyone.
“We as a race are pre-disposed to high-risk medical conditions to begin with, such as heart disease, diabetes, respiratory illnesses. So this affects us more on the severe end than as you would see with other demographics,” said Sitting Bear.
The Department of Health’s team is creating a health equity strategic plan with one of the key components being culture-appropriate messaging.
About 2,300 of MHA Nation have already received their first dose of the vaccine.
They are planning to administer the second doses this coming week.