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Removing barriers in COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Mecklenburg County

Novant Health has distributed nearly 16,000 equity doses at community pop-up events where 67% of attendees identify as a member of a racial or ethnic minority.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There's a renewed push to make the vaccine easier to get and to make people feel more comfortable about getting their shot. 

Health experts say vaccine hesitancy is higher in underserved communities hit hardest by the virus. To help combat that, Novant Health just launched a mobile health unit to bring the vaccine directly into vulnerable zip codes.

The Camino Community Center, a trusted place in the Latino community, also provided a bilingual vaccination clinic Wednesday. 

"We want to make sure that they felt welcomed here and that they were empowered to make their own decision in getting the vaccine," research and evaluation assistant at Camino Community Center Lennin Caro said.

Caro says the decision to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine ultimately comes down to a matter of trust, and for some Latinos in Mecklenburg County, that trust just isn't there.

"For many Hispanics, there are concerns about documentation status and things like that, sensitive information and they understand Camino is on their side," Caro said.

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Wednesday morning, 120 shots were administered at the Camino Community Center. The event was bilingual because for Spanish speakers, getting access to vaccine education is more difficult. 

"They really value having services in their own language, especially if they have doubts or concerns about their health," Caro said. 

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Meanwhile, Novant Health is also trying to remove barriers, launching the Novant Health Community Care Cruiser. The goal is to increase vaccination rates in priority zip codes where health disparities are more common.

"I work in the maintenance industry, in and out of people's houses, so I figured it would be a safe thing to do," Christian Reynolds, who got vaccinated at the mobile clinic, said. 

Appointments are available but not required, and 250 doses will be provided during each event. Spanish-speaking staff will also be at all mobile unit events.

"We need to really focus on everyone getting vaccinated because once we hit that point where most of the country is vaccinated, we will be on top of this," Reynolds said.

The next stop for the mobile unit will be at Compare Foods’ N. Tryon location on Thursday, April 29 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Novant Health has distributed nearly 16,000 equity doses at community pop-up events where 67% of attendees identify as a member of a racial or ethnic minority. To date, Novant Health’s vaccination rate for Asian and Black patients at community events is three times that of the general North Carolina vaccination rate.

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.