As Maryland state officials prepare for the coronavirus vaccines’ approval and distribution, Montgomery County council members are focused on inspiring local confidence in the vaccine, especially in Black and Latino communities.
Council President Tom Hucker said efforts to instill trust in medical and public health programs are not new in Montgomery County.
“Years before COVID, we’d been aware that our Black and Brown communities — due to a legacy of racist practices in health care — have suffered from skepticism and distrust of the medical community,” the council president said.
Hucker said the county’s prior experience in building public health confidence will help communities overcome their skepticism about a COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’ve stood up a whole network of trusted partners in the nonprofit community to help us provide health care for a long time, whether we’re talking about our African American health program, our Latino health initiative or our Asian American health initiative” Hucker said.
The county will be “doubling down” on using those networks to encourage people to get vaccinated, he added.
Montgomery County Council Vice President Gabe Albornoz, who joined Hucker in the virtual briefing, spoke in both English and Spanish while answering reporters’ questions on the issue.
“It starts on a grassroots level — connecting to our key community partners of trust,” Albornoz said. “That includes our churches and faith-based organizations, that includes our community organizations.”
He added that those grassroots connections would extend to county residents who might not hold official positions, but who are seen as community leaders and “influencers.”
Albornoz also said that he was pleased to see three former U.S. Presidents, Barack Obama, George w. Bush and Bill Clinton, declare that they would publicly receive vaccinations once available to boost confidence in immunization.
“This is something that we must focus on and I suspect that my colleagues and I are going to be doing the same thing,” Albornoz said.
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