Home Youth jerseys Newark has almost doubled its youth vaccination rate in 2 months. Here’s how.

Newark has almost doubled its youth vaccination rate in 2 months. Here’s how.

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This story was originally published by Chalkbeat. Subscribe to their newsletters at ckbe.at/newsletters.

Earlier this summer, Newark’s youth vaccination rate was still alarming.

As of mid-July, only 30% of eligible children in Newark had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 14 percentage points lower than the statewide rate. This month, Mayor Ras Baraka warned Newark residents that with so few young people vaccinated and the Delta variant spreading like wildfire, schools could end up closing right after they reopen.

“Our children are not being immunized at the rate we need,” he said on July 30.

Then something remarkable happened. The city and its partners embarked on a wave of gunfire that increased Newark’s youth immunization rate by 25 percentage points in just two months. Today, 55% of 12 to 17 year olds have received at least one injection, almost closing the gap between city and state. (Of all Newark residents aged 12 and older, 72% received at least one dose.)

How did Newark do it? The key, said Dr Mark Wade, director of the city’s health department, has been meeting residents where they are. This not only means setting up vaccination clinics in schools and city districts, but also patient listening and responding to residents’ concerns.

“The availability of vaccines was not a problem,” he told Chalkbeat. “It was literally convincing and assured the residents of the community that it was safe, effective, and worth it, not only for individual health, but to protect the community as a whole.”

Now Newark plans to ramp up its vaccination campaign by opening clinics in nearly every school and targeting parts of town with the lowest rates. At the same time, district schools will soon begin testing students for COVID on a weekly basis, Wade said.

“We know what to do,” he said. “And we’ll do the job.”

Earlier this year, Newark was one of the least vaccinated cities in New Jersey. Despite a disproportionate share of COVID deaths in the state, just over a fifth of Newark residents had been vaccinated by early May – half the statewide rate. And when a federally-run mass vaccination site opened in the city, more out-of-town residents were vaccinated than Newark residents, Baraka said.

It was at this point that state and local authorities changed course. Rather than only offering vaccination appointments at certain sites, Essex County and the city have started running pop-up clinics in parks, schools and churches. The state sent trained volunteers to Newark and other underserved communities to answer residents’ questions in person and guide them through the vaccination process.

The more personalized approach has proven to be effective. By the end of July, 56% of adults in Newark were fully vaccinated, up from just over 20% in May.

“Over the summer, we left the four walls of our institutions much more aggressively and entered deeper into the community,” said Wade, who acknowledged Baraka’s leadership.

But there was a catch: Despite its progress with adults, Newark had vaccinated less than a third of eligible children, ages 12 to 17, by mid-summer. The low rate was all the more concerning as Governor Phil Murphy had ordered all students to return to school in person this fall. Experts have warned that outbreaks in schools, already a real possibility due to the delta variant, would be even more likely if more students were not vaccinated.

So Newark again adjusted the course.

From late July to late August, the city health department, Essex County and Saint James Health, a Newark-based health care provider, set up vaccination clinics in nearly 30 district schools. . Knowing that some active parents could not accompany their children, the sites allowed parents to give their consent to the vaccination over the phone. The school district helped promote the new “Vaccines for Adolescents” campaign.

In partnership with local religious leaders and community groups, agencies have also started donating photos at summer festivals, barbecues and back-to-school drives. Again this week, Saint James Health and the Willing Heart Community Care Center, a charity founded by the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark, hosted an event where young people could get vaccinated and play video games at an entertainment center. mobile 32 feet long.

As access expanded and schools reopened, youth vaccinations increased in Newark. Yet many young people remain hesitant. Like their peers nationally, some question the safety of the vaccine or fear possible side effects. And like so many Americans, they’re inundated with vaccine misinformation on social media.

“It’s crazy stuff out there,” Newark City Councilor LaMonica McIver said last month during a backpack giveaway she helped organize, where eligible parents and children could also. to get vaccinated. “Trying to overcome this misinformation and educate young people is something we need to do more of.”

Misinformation is not the only thing that fuels hesitation about vaccination. The long history of abuse of blacks by the U.S. health care system has naturally aroused suspicion among some of the city’s black residents, including teenagers.

A group of college students hanging out in Newark’s Nat Turner Park in mid-September told Chalkbeat they weren’t planning on getting the shot. Judaea, a grade 11 student at a local charter school who declined to give her last name, said she did not trust the vaccine because she did not trust the government.

“Yet to this day, I don’t know if the government is behind COVID,” she said, citing an unsupported conspiracy theory. She added that officials urging people to get vaccinated only heightened her suspicions. “I wouldn’t do anything based on what the government tells me to do.”

Dr Wade said vaccine advocates must recognize the history of racism within the medical establishment and the US government. But they should also stress that getting the vaccines will help protect black and Hispanic communities, which COVID has hit particularly hard.

“Safe, effective, protects,” he said. “They have to hear it over and over again.”

Of course, many families don’t need to be convinced.

Corie Jones accompanied her daughter, Tokyo, to a pop-up vaccination site Saint James Health set up near the corner of Peshine and Clinton avenues on Thursday. Tokyo, an 11th grader at Newark Vocational High School, said watching friends get sick or lose family members to COVID makes getting the vaccine a no-brainer.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, I need to have it,'” she said. “I got it to be safe.”

Isaiah Archer, a freshman at Shabazz High School, jumped into his mother’s waiting car as soon as he got his chance at the same site on Thursday. Her mother, Kai Archer, said she hopes more families will follow suit.

“Parents need to come out here and get their children vaccinated,” she said. “It’s to save their lives.

Chalkbeat is a non-profit news organization covering public education.

Patrick Wall is a senior reporter for Chalkbeat Newark. He was previously Acting Office Manager and Journalist for Chalkbeat New York. Patrick began his career as a fourth grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools before earning a Masters in Journalism from CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. He has been published in The Atlantic, Mother Jones, and DNAinfo, among other publications. He was a Spencer Education-Reporting Fellow at Columbia University and won a National Beatreporting Award from the Education Writers Association.

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