Vaccinations given in the 9th Ward amid vaccine hesitancy by some New Orleanians

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 8:06 AM CDT
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published April 1, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT - Updated April 2 at 5:55 AM on

A healthcare worker holds a syringe of COVID-19 at a 9th Ward vaccination site.
A healthcare worker holds a syringe of COVID-19 at a 9th Ward vaccination site.(WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (Great Health Divide) - In the lower 9th Ward, New Philippians Missionary Baptist Church is a place of worship but on Thursday (April 1) it was used for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Pastor Anthony Jeanmarie says some people in the community still have reservations about the three approved vaccines.

“There’s always a cultural and a historical anxiety that folks have been displaying and so we tried to demystify a lot of those by putting as much information as we possibly we can,” said Jeanmarie.

He opened his church’s doors to help combat vaccine hesitancy that is evident in some minority and economically disadvantaged communities.

People of all races took advantage of the opportunity to get vaccinated close to home.

Lisa Heitdmann left the church happy that she received the shot.

“There’s no need to be scared, it’s no worse than a flu shot, it’s the same thing, it’s just a needle in the arm,” she said.

The city of New Orleans partnered with Ochsner Health to put on the vaccination event.

Dr. Victoria Smith, an African American doctor at Ochsner Health said the virus has been especially hard on the black community.

“We have seen the African American community experience more cases of COVID 19 and fatalities from this disease and sadly COVID-19 we know is not the first health issue to have a greater impact on people of color,” said Smith.

The lower 9th Ward is a heavily African American community and one that has not fully rebounded since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and overwhelmed the levees.

Mayor Latoya Cantrell said there will more outreach to increase the numbers of residents who have been vaccinated.

“And we have to be intentional about going into every area in the city where we’re seeing that our people are under-represented when it comes to getting the vaccination,” she said.

Dr. Jennifer Avegno is Director of the New Orleans Health Department and echoed that message.

“As a community, we will not be healthy or whole again until every one of us feels comfortable to take the shot,” said Avegno.

According to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard, 36.3% of residents have initiated vaccinations and 21.6 percent have completed the process. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots and Johnson & Johnson one dose.

Still, Avegno says even though one-third of the city’s residents have taken the shots that is not good enough.

“But if you peel that number back it is not equal across the board, it’s not one-third across the board, many people still have questions, still need more information, still don’t have the ability to travel long distances, and disrupt their daily life for a vaccine,” said Avegno.

And church leaders like Pastor Jeanmarie know firsthand the deadly toll the pandemic has had in New Orleans.

“I don’t want to see another person die. We’ve been capsized with funerals, I know pastors that are suffering with depression not just because they can’t have church but because they can’t engage their members on a daily basis, there’s power in hugs and embraces,” said Jeanmarie.

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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