Medical leaders urge COVID-19 vaccinations for Black, American Indian/Indigenous, Latino, and communities of color

Concerned about the steady rise in COVID-19 among unvaccinated patients, Hennepin Healthcare caregivers are speaking out to encourage community support for the vaccine – especially among those who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

“I know everyone is tired of hearing this message, but as providers who see this day in and day out, we can’t remain quiet when every day we’re caring for members of our communities who are becoming infected with or dying from this preventable virus,” explains Dr. Aaron Robinson, one of the few American Indian Academic Emergency Physicians in the U.S. “It’s disheartening: your life matters and you make a difference in our community. Please make the choice to get vaccinated.”

On Wednesday, September 1 at 10 a.m. Dr. Robinson will be joined by some of his colleagues to speak to the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and what they are seeing – as well as what they do NOT want to see – in the emergency department and throughout the hospital in the coming months. They will be joined by some of their peers as well as others who have been affected by COVID-19 and support the vaccine.

The news conference will take place in the Stillman Conference Room at Hennepin Healthcare’s Clinic & Specialty Center located at 715 S. 8th St., Minneapolis, 55404.

According to the Minnesota Electronic Health Record Consortium (MNEHRC), a collaboration of Minnesota Health Systems working to study COVID-19 vaccination rates, the overall vaccinate rate for people twelve and over is:

Native American: 48.8%
Black/African-American: 49.8%
Hispanic: 56.1%
White: 63.0%
Asian/Pacific Islander: 73.3%

“These disparities continue to take place even though Minnesotans have been exposed to repeated messages about the benefits of the vaccine,” says Dr. Nneka Sederstrom, Chief Health Equity Officer at Hennepin Healthcare. “Now we are already talking about COVID-19 booster vaccines, and it’s simply disheartening to see precious lives being lost because they haven’t even chosen that first dose.”

Like other hospitals throughout the state, HCMC has been experiencing higher than average patient volumes for several reasons, including an increase in COVID patients due to the Delta variant and primarily unvaccinated patients.

“We are genuinely concerned about what the months ahead,” says pediatrician Dr. Andrew Kiragu. “Viruses like COVID are constantly mutating into new, more dangerous variants in order to overcome our body’s defenses. As schools open and more events move indoors, COVID-19 and its variants will be seeking opportunities to thrive. Let’s not make it easy for them. For those who are eligible, please make the choice to protect yourself, your neighbors, and your kids. Get vaccinated.”

Dr. Maria Veronica Svetaz, a family physician, has been providing outreach to Spanish-speaking communities in the Twin Cities with hopes of improving vaccination rates. “I have conversations with my patients about vaccinations all the time, as they are eager to be reassured by their provider; mistrust has been an issue in the past years of anti-immigrant sentiment,” she says. “I assure them: we are here to restore that. So many have known someone who has had the virus or who has lost a loved one. When you balance what we know about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine against the devastating loss of a loved one, the choice is an easy one to make.”

About Hennepin Healthcare

Hennepin Healthcare serves a vital role in our community that includes providing Level 1 Trauma care to people from across the state, offering a full range of specialty care, supporting the health and wellness needs in clinics across our community, and working to reduce health disparities and advocating for equity.