Searcy Serves on COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Taskforce

Joyce Searcy

Belmont Director of Community Relations Joyce Searcy participated on a COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Taskforce to make recommendations to the Metro Nashville Department of Health on how the city can improve administering the COVID-19 vaccine to communities of color and vulnerable populations.

As vaccine doses continue to reach states for distribution, the Tennessee Department of Health has released early data suggesting minorities are not receiving the vaccine in percentages that mirror their share of the population or even their share of COVID patients. As of January 13, 2021, less than 4 percent of Tennesseans who identify as African American and less than 2 percent of Hispanics have received the vaccine. By contrast, African Americans account for 13 percent of the state’s COVID-19 cases and more than 25 percent of hospitalizations.

Concerned by this disturbing trend, representatives of several community organizations –who share a commitment to reaching the most vulnerable in Nashville, came together for a series of meetings to identify potential resources and solutions to mitigate disparities in the awareness of and access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

In general, observations and recommendations can be grouped into four basic categories, with some challenges and opportunities cutting across multiple categories, including public information and messaging, logistics, appointment scheduling methods and related messaging and instructions, and the vaccine supply. The taskforce wrote up their recommendations and presented it them to Dr. Gill Wright with the Metro Public Health Department.

Others who served on the taskforce include:

  • Dr. A. Dexter Samuels, MHA, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs & Executive Director of the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College
  • Katina Beard, CEO of Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, Inc.
  • Yuri Cunza, President & CEO of the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Jessica Fain, Chief Strategy Officer at YMCA of Middle Tennessee
  • Matt Wiltshire, Chief Strategy Officer at Metropolitan Housing and Development Agency