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State, local health officials working to close racial gap in North Carolina COVID-19 vaccinations

The state is now setting aside tens of thousands of vaccines to go to underserved communities.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Federal and state leaders are working to make sure the vaccine rollout is fast and equitable. But data shows there is a growing racial gap in vaccinations.

In North Carolina, leaders are working to get doses into every community in the state, now focusing on underserved communities. Every week, for the next three weeks, NCDHHS will be setting aside 55,000 doses of vaccine to go to counties with higher low income and historically marginalized populations.

In the race to get as many people as possible vaccinated, there are disparities in who is rolling up their sleeves -- even at the largest mass vaccination clinic in the Charlotte area to date.

“We had 30% of our patients who received vaccines from communities of color. That’s a number that we're not satisfied with, not even close,” Scott Rissmiller with Atrium Health said regarding this weekend's mass vaccination clinic held at Bank of America Stadium. More than 20,000 people were vaccinated.

According to U.S. Census data, 22% of the population in North Carolina is Black. The most recent state data shows only 12% of the people given the first dose are Black. White people make up 70% of the population in the state and 81% of those vaccinated.

“African Americans in the past have had this mistrust of the medical system and are not overwhelmingly excited about the vaccine, there are some that are, and I have proof in my waiting list,” Danita Terrell, the community nurse for Friendship Baptist Missionary Church on Beatties Ford Road, said.

The church has partnered with Novant Health to hold two clinics so far, vaccinating 375 people 65 and older.

“If we are able to offer it through our church, I think it offers them an opportunity to get it somewhere they're familiar with," Terrell said. "So that familiarity and trust factor are there and to influence persons too."

The state is now setting aside 55,000 doses to go directly to underserved communities. On the local level, vaccine providers are working with leaders in those communities to hold these events.

RELATED: North Carolina has administered over 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

“Both hospital systems are providing clinics among our African American and Latino population as well so we will continue to focus on that," Mecklenburg County health director Gibbie Harris said. "That is also a significant focus at the state level. We're all working on that together at this point in time."

They'll give second doses at the church at two separate events in a few weeks.

The Mecklenburg County Health Department will be holding an event this upcoming weekend to target the refugee and immigrant community.

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