Editor's note: The article has been update to correct the day of the second COVID vacinne event to Monday, March 8.
A partnership between a nonprofit and a community health organization is providing COVID-19 education to the African American community with the next events slated for March 8 and March 22. Both will include COVID vaccines.
Northside Organization Reinventing the Honor or NORTH is hosting the second COVID Prevention Information and Vaccine Event next week; the event is sponsored by Katy Trail Community Health. Nancy Sims-VanBuren is organizing the event with her son, Kardell Sims, and nephew, Shawn Sims.
Sims-Vanburen noted the NORTH organization was started by Kardell a few years ago to give back to the community. The organization is now a 501(c)3 and has hosted several community events. The idea for COVID education events came about collectively by both NORTH and Katy Trail.
“In the process of (community events) some people heard about us and Katy Trail contacted us,” she noted. “And asked us how we felt about the COVID outbreak.
“It’s no secret that the Black community is more susceptible and is really getting hit hard,” she continued. “So, we thought well what could we do to help?”
Katy Trail Community Health Chief Executive Officer Chris Stewart said by phone Thursday, the center first heard about NORTH through Zach Vandevender, the husband of their chief medical officer Bethany Vandevender.
“Zach reached out to me and said, ‘Chris this is a group that you definitely want to link to, because of the work that they are doing,’” Stewart noted. “It just so happened that Kardell reached out to me right around the time I was going to reach out to him.”
NORTH and Katy Trail hosted the first two-day event Nov. 11 and 12 and reached 200 people, Stewart said. The first event provided COVID health education, masks and hand sanitizer. Sims-Vanburen noted they also provided warm hats and gloves for children and adults.
The March 8 and 22 events will also offer free masks, sanitizer and also voter registration. Both Sims-Vanburen and Stewart noted the biggest difference is the COVID vaccine will be provided to those who are eligible — those 65 years old and older, first responders, health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, emergency management and public works and the emergency services sector. It also includes those with certain health conditions and transplant recipients. More information about eligibility can be found at MOstopsCOVID.com.
Sims-Vanburen, who has received her vaccine, noted the reason they are offering the event on the north side is that the Black population in her neighborhood isn’t “eager” to receive the COVID shot.
“There’s several people in our age group that are getting the shot,” she added. “But my concern is the group that comes after us.
“So, the purpose of what we’re doing this time is again to give out the hand sanitizers and masks to keep everyone safe,” she continued. “But at the same time to let them come in and talk with health care professionals, so they can get a good understanding …”
She noted she thinks some of the resistance to the vaccine is due to fear of the shot and the side effects. Sims-Vanburen plans to have people there who have received the vaccine so they can talk to anyone hesitant about receiving the shot to “explain the unknown to them.”
“I think the vaccine’s real important,” she added. “I don’t think we’re going to curb this until that vaccine gets out there.”
Stewart noted the event serves two purposes: to get people vaccinated and to build relationships in the African American community.
“Our reasoning for making this connection is two-fold,” she noted. “We want to make stronger connections between our organization and the African American community because of the history of health disparities and discrimination in health care.
“I’m not saying we have evidence of that going on here,” she continued. “But, there’s certainly a history in the country.”
She added as a community health center she believes it’s their “responsibility to build that relationship of trust.”
“Our target (for vaccination) is really the African American community,” Stewart explained. “A large part of the reason why we want to make sure we’re getting into both the African American and Hispanic communities is because of the disproportionate number of (COVID) infections and deaths happening in those communities. And particularly in the African American community.”
Both Sims-Vanburen and Stewart noted getting people vaccinated is “critical.”
Sims-Vanburen added the purpose of NORTH is to uplift the community mentally, physically and emotionally.
“And health care is very important,” she noted. “And right now COVID-19 is a very, very deadly thing for us, So, we just want to help in any way we can.”
The COVID Prevention Information and Vaccine Event will be hosted from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, March 8 and Monday, March 22 at The Event Center, 401 N. Osage Ave. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/northsideorg or call 660-619-2392 or call Katy Trail Community Health at 660-826-4774.