The Arizona Coalition for Change is launching a new campaign, “Sleeves Up Arizona,” addressing low COVID-19 vaccination rates in black communities.
The organization met Wednesday in Eastlake Park in Phoenix and featured speakers such as Rep. Reginald Bolding and former NBA All-Star and Phoenix Suns player Cedric Ceballos.
Ceballos shared his story of fighting the virus and spent “20 days on death row” in intensive care.
“This is an uphill battle, but it won’t be just the doctors and scientists alone. We need to have a collective people from all walks of life to help us all so that we can overcome this,” Ceballos said.
“As a Black-led organization, we truly believe we have an opportunity and a space to use our voices on this issue,” said Bolding.
“We’re in this together,” said Alexa-Rio Osaki, coalition communications director.
The campaign seeks to answer questions about the virus and provide testing and vaccination opportunities to communities of color.
“There is hesitation, but … also questions within our communities, especially when it comes to the time we are now in with COVID and vaccines,” Osaki said.
“Over the course of vaccination, black and Hispanic people were less likely to receive a vaccine than their white counterparts, but these differences have narrowed over time,” according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.
Although the black community makes up 5.2% of the population in Arizona, according to U.S. census data, only 2.8% of Arizonans who have received at least one dose of the vaccine are black, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
In Maricopa County, 40.5% of black residents over the age of 5 have received at least one vaccine dose, compared to 42% of white residents, 68.2% of Asians or Pacific Islanders, and 84.1% of American Indians or Alaska Natives, according to county data.
“Being a Black-led organization means there are specific conversations and specific resources and answers that are needed,” Osaki said.
According to the NAACP, nearly seven in 10 people in the black community report knowing someone who is infected with the coronavirus. This includes about one in 10 who say they have been personally infected, and four in 10 who say they know someone who has died from complications from the coronavirus, and 15% of whom a family member has died.
On a national scale, according to the NAACP, black and Hispanic people are three times more likely than white people to contract the virus, and nearly twice as likely to die from it.
The coalition’s message to the black community in Phoenix is clear: “You have people looking out for you,” Osaki said.
More information can be found at http://sleevesupaz.com.
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