Detroit launches door-to-door effort to fight vaccine hesitancy

May 05, 2021, 2:56 PM

"Detroit is an island of vaccine hesitancy," is how one local media editor on Wednesday assessed a statewide heat map showing areas where vaccinations lag in red. Indeed, the city was on fire, looking a bit like a bleeding heart nestled in a body of green and yellow.

Just 31% of city residents over 16 have had at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with an average of more than 50 percent statewide, The Detroit News reports. And the disparity is even more pronounced in Metro Detroit, with nearly 60 percent of Oakland County adults having received at least one shot.

It's a trend the city of Detroit is hoping to buck with a door-to-door campaign launched Saturday to convince hesitant residents to get a shot. But canvassers — the same ones who had difficulty getting residents to fill out the Census — were having little success when The News joined them for a trip through a northwest Detroit neighborhood.

Anthony Brinson led a team of people through the Marygrove-Fitzgerald Community Tuesday morning, stopping and knocking on every door on the 17000 block of Kentucky Avenue.

Only a handful of Detroit residents answered their doors.

A maskless Brinson, 43, knocked on doors, wearing a shirt that read "Fully Vaxxed and Feeling Good," but he wasn't having much luck convincing people to get a shot for COVID-19.

Mecca Shabazz, who lives in the northwest neighborhood, said while she understands people want to get back to normal, she doesn't feel the rush to get a vaccine.

"I'm not scared and I'm not against it, I just don't feel pressed to," said Shabazz, 26. "My family members, including my mom, had COVID, but it wasn't bad, and now she and my grandparents are vaccinated. But I feel like I'm healthy and am just going to wait.

The $1 million effort relies on 30 volunteers and will run through summer, starting in neighborhoods with low vaccination rates near walk-in Covid shot sites. It's being paid for with funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and will employ tactics similar to the Census effort and previous outreach to help residents avoid tax foreclosure.

Shot-shy residents tend to be younger and cite a variety of reasons for their resistance, said Victoria Kovari, the Duggan administration official spearheading the campaign. 

"The older people are very enthusiastic, they've either had their vaccine or they have an appointment. For younger people like under 40, it's a different story," Kovari said. "People are saying, 'Well, I just want to wait and see.'

"We found that as more people see their family and friends get vaccinated, they feel more comfortable. We're also hearing that the vaccine was done in record time, there are side effects and realistically, there are very few people that we've encountered that are against the vaccine."

In addition to Ford Field and TCF center, residents can get vaccinated by walking into any of these sites:

  • Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers
  • Farwell Recreation Center, 2711 East Outer Drive
  • Clemente, 2631 Bagley St.
  • Clark Park, 1130 Clark St.
  • Samaritan Center, 5555 Conner Ave.
  • Straight Gate Church, 10100 Grand River Ave.

If an appointment is preferred, more information on how to make one is here.


Read more:  The Detroit News

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