New initiative will focus on building COVID-19 vaccine confidence in east Kansas City

Tracking Coronavirus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Neighborhoods in east Kansas City are more than half as likely to be fully vaccinated as the rest of Jackson County. 

That’s why on Monday, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the county launched a new partnership with dozens of community organizations to get more vaccines to those areas. 

This initiative is called “Our Healthy KC Eastside.” The goal is to use places that people in the community trust, like neighborhood groups, churches and businesses, to spread the word about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and provide clinics to get shots in more arms.

A beautiful stone church on Linwood is still empty on Sunday mornings. Rev. Dr. Faith Allen of Jamison Memorial Temple is still delivering sermons online or, on nice days, to a socially distant parking lot. 

The pandemic has hit her family and congregation hard. 

“We’re not able to comfort each other, embrace each other and so it’s been rough,” Allen said.

Many parishioners have gotten sick and some have even died in the past year from COVID-19. That’s why Allen’s church is one of 30 community organizations now stepping up to support vaccines.

“All the time we’re praying for a cure. We never thought there would be persons who would not want the vaccine,” Allen said. 

A UMKC study found many low-income neighborhoods that are at the highest risk for getting COVID-19 are also least likely to get vaccinated. 

Near the Ivanhoe neighborhood, as few as 6% of Black residents have gotten a dose, compared to 22% of white residents. 

“It’s important that everyone be as safe as possible, and receiving the vaccines is critical to that,” said Dr. Karen Boyd, Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council executive director.

The Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council serves 6,000 residents. As part of Our Healthy KC Eastside, teams will hit the streets, make calls and host events where vaccination is part of providing critical services like face masks and food to those in need.

“They will see hopefully practitioners and nurses, doctors that look like them administering the vaccines. We can all attest to the fact that we, staff and board, we’re fully vaccinated, so we’re hoping that goes a long way in building back trust,” Boyd said.

Nearly $5 million will support the community’s efforts thanks to CARES Act funding awarded to UMKC by the Jackson County legislature. 

Training will be offered to organizations, churches and businesses participating to help them educate the community, raise awareness and host vaccine clinics. 

“Let’s get the vaccination. Let’s get back to being able to live and live,” Allen said.

The program officially kicks off June 1 and will run through the end of November. 

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