NCNW Vaccine Outreach Amid Disturbing Life Expectancy Data
By Dianne Anderson
Since May, the COVID Delta variant has become the most common strain, escalating from 5% to 35% of cases in California, and fully 99% of all those that are dying right now nationwide are unvaccinated.
Those sheer numbers of preventable deaths are driving groups like the National Council of Negro Women to pour a lot of energy into new ways to get the message out to the community that COVID is far from gone.
Doctors and providers are also watching and waiting to see what things will look like in one or two weeks from now post-July 4.
About half of the United States are now fully vaccinated, and Long Beach recently hit 70% vaccinated adults with at least one shot.
The concern is that all groups are not equally vaccinated.
Based on current numbers, sickness or death shouldn’t be as bad for whites in the coming months as for Blacks and Latinos. As one recent Harvard study shows, Black men are dying at the highest rate from COVID, and in states like Georgia and Missouri, Black women are dying over three times more than white men.
“Those numbers are starting to come in, we must continue to talk to our people, to have opportunities for them to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Helena Johnson, Southern California Area President at National Council of Negro Women, including 14 sections.
When COVID first hit, she recalls how the Black community couldn’t access testing or the vaccine. Walk-in options were hardly available at hospitals, even as low-income areas struggled with transportation, and problems with registration.
“Folks from Beverly Hills would come to South L.A.. to get vaccinated, but people in South L.A. couldn’t get vaccinated. There are things that have happened and they were not reported properly,” Johnson said.
Going forward, NCNW is offering free Uber pick-ups to ensure the community can get to and from vaccine sites. They are also looking to work with Long Beach nonprofits to help get the community vaccinated.
In partnership with USC, they are hosting listening sessions to connect with the grassroots community. One barrier is that the community is not relating to the rhetoric, no matter how professional.
Mostly, they feel the professionals aren’t listening to their needs, and others are simply not interested.
“They think that if you throw someone up with a doctorate and let them spout for 15 minutes, whether it’s true or not, doesn’t matter. To them, you’re talking to the masses. You’re not speaking their language,” said Johnson, who is also NCNW National Vice-Chair.
Unless someone has been directly impacted by COVID-19 or have seen someone die, she they are not grasping the gravity of the situation.
“They’re not getting it. If someone gets it, but then gets better, they say, ‘okay it’s not going to kill me.’ It’s just all those terrible little pieces and parts that we play with on a daily basis,” she said.
As more organizations reach out, she thinks it will make a difference. In working with USC, she hopes to expand through Los Angeles County, and is encouraging any Black organizations to contact NCNW if they want vaccine opportunities for their neighborhood.
“Any organization that we partner with, we’ll request that they bring a popup there for Long Beach and any place else,” she said. “We really hope to walk away [knowing] that we have given folks information so they make conscientious decisions.”
Melanie Grant, a lifetime member of NCNW, Inc., Orange County, said bigger vaccination efforts in her area had some success, but lately smaller outreach at churches and community events seems more effective.
“You’ve got to bring it to where the people are even if it only means 25 or 50 people a day. You’ve got to keep doing it, that’s what’s going to save the people,” she said. “We are all about family and community. We don’t want families to lose loved ones or our communities to lose more people.”
Hospitals are now seeing unvaccinated young people more sick with the Delta Variant than with the original COVID impact.
Dr. DeVera Heard, president of the Orange County Section NCNW, said working with USC to get information to the Black community to get the jab before the variant wreaks havoc again is the priority.
Their partnership is centered in the hub of the USC campus in South L.A., but she said the efforts and ideas to deal with disparities will be implemented across Southern California.
“I understand Tuskegee and all of the experiments done on African Americans. All that was wrong and all that was bad, but right now you do not let them talk you out of being safe,” she said.
Recent statistics are disturbing. The community had shown signs of health improvement before the pandemic, but so much ground has been lost.
“I was in awe. This virus has caused the downward slope of life expectancy to go even lower in the African American Community – life expectancy dropped 2.7 years. For Hispanic, it’s 1.9, white 1.8 [years], just in this last year,” she said.
She feels part of the problem is that friends and family aren’t sharing posts of vaccine status on social media, probably fearing a backlash.
“But when [they] interact privately with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, it’s a different conversation. A lot of people go out and get the vaccination, but they don’t tell their friends and family they did it,” she said.
Another less talked about issue is that some Black Republicans have bought into anti-vax politics. Statistically, some people have a small reaction from taking the vaccine, but most people will not.
“And they will stay alive. What they said all along with the vaccine, it’s not a miracle. You may still get sick, but you won’t die,” she said.
For more information, see https://ncnw.org/
To track COVID data by race, see
To learn more about Long Beach vaccine sites, see