South L.A. leaders, health officials ramp up efforts to address COVID-19 vaccine skepticism

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People of color are among those most likely to express skepticism about the coronavirus vaccine. Efforts are underway to change their minds.

On Thursday, Mayor Garcetti and Supervisor Holly Mitchell joined three city council members who represent the South L.A. area to urge constituents distrustful of the COVID-19 vaccine to get inoculated. 

“South L.A. is one of the epicenters of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jim Mangia, president of the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, said during a news conference Thursday. “More people are infected, hospitalized and die from Covid in South Los Angeles than anywhere else in the state of California.”

The populations that St. John’s Well Child and Family Center serve are primarily Latinos and African American. They’re also low income workers, according to the center.

Health officials have said that communities of color have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic, with Latino and Black residents far more likely to get the virus and die of it compared with whites. And nowhere is it more evident than in South L.A. 

While vaccinations for front-line health care workers at the center and other healthcare clinics are under way, many have been refusing the vaccine, officials said.

As clinics across South L.A. prepare to vaccinate hundred of thousands of its residents in the near future, officials are concerned about a recent poll that said only 14% of Black Americans and 34% of Latino Americans reportedly trust the vaccine’s safety, according to Mangia and a statement by the center.

Areva Martin, president of Special Needs Network, a nonprofit that serves children with developmental disabilities, was one of the speakers at Thursday’s outreach event vouching for the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety.

“60% of White Americans have already indicated that they would be willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine. That number drops to 40% or less in African American communities, and that’s not just with respect to everyday people,” Martin said. “That is with respect to our healthcare workers, our frontline workers, those people who are coming into contact with thousands and thousands of people on a daily basis. So we got a lot of work to do.”

Correction: A previous version of this story provided an incorrect first name for the president of the St. John’s Well Child and Family Center. This story has been updated.

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