HUD Secretary Visits Newark, Determined to Increase Vaccine Response

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sec. Marcia Fudge visited Wynona Lipman Gardens on Thursday to attend a mobile pop-up clinic hosted by Saint James Health.

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NEWARK, NJ — Less than a quarter of Newark residents are fully vaccinated, however, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge said the Biden-Harris administration is determined to raise those numbers.

Joined by local health professionals and area officials, Fudge visited Wynona Lipman Gardens on Thursday to attend a mobile pop-up clinic hosted by Saint James Health. Aimed to increase accessibility to the city’s most underserved communities, pop-up clinics have been one of the city’s most consistent methods to provide access rather than relying on larger vaccination sites

As of May 6, more than 100 million U.S. citizens have been fully vaccinated, but the numbers in so many underserved communities throughout the country like Newark tell a different story. In a city where roughly 22% of its residents are fully vaccinated, the HUD secretary, a Cleveland native, stressed that the Biden-Harris administration needs to do more for its minority communities. 

“In these kinds of communities, we need everyone vaccinated because I care about the people in these communities,” Fudge said during a press conference. “I have families in these communities. I have friends in the communities. I grew up in these communities.”

In Newark, a recent drop in demand for the vaccine has temporarily closed a county-run vaccination site at the Donald Payne School while the Essex County College clinic will allow walk-in appointments. 

Since vaccines first became available in December 2020, city officials have undertaken various efforts to reach as many residents as possible. 

One way officials have worked to increase vaccination numbers has come through means of reducing hesitancy among its predominantly Black and brown communities. 

That hesitancy can in some ways be tied to long-standing distrust of the medical establishment and government, largely due to the Tuskegee study in the 20th century. The study, which used unaware Black men to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis, left many African-Americans permanently wary of the practice of medicine, including vaccinations.

In February, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka joined several community religious leaders as they received their vaccines, encouraging residents to follow suit. The idea, officials said, was that residents would be more willing to receive the vaccine if they saw their religious leaders receive one. The move came about a week after Essex County officials announced a partnership with faith leaders of the area’s Black and brown communities to receive their vaccines.

In March, city officials then teamed up with a local equitable vaccine initiative headed by community leaders to increase access to the vaccine in minority communities. 

Although the city also hosts one of the largest vaccination centers in the state on the New Jersey Institute of Technology campus, Baraka told TAPinto Newark the day of the site’s grand opening that the plan moving forward would shift towards smaller efforts to overcome the hurdle of accessibility for residents.

“These mega centers don’t necessarily work in our community like they work in other people’s communities,” he said. “Getting access to smaller sites like schools, churches and other things that we have been doing - I think that’s been more effective.”

While city officials have yet to release a formal plan to improve vaccination numbers and reduce vaccine hesitancy, Baraka did say during a Facebook Live COVID Update that the city may turn to the state for assistance.  

"The state has a two times higher vaccination rate than we are at in Newark," he said. "They have to dedicate considerable resources to places like Newark. They have to come into our community and make sure that vaccination rates are higher, and put vaccinations in all of these neighborhoods.”

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-05-07 02:49:53 -0700