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Nurse who vaccinated Kamala Harris working to solve vaccine disparities in DC

Patricia Cummings gave the VP-elect her COVID-19 vaccine. Now, she's working to raise awareness about its safety and efficacy, especially in wards 7 and 8.

WASHINGTON — As D.C. data shows disparities between COVID-19 case concentrations and vaccine administration, the United Medical Center nurse who vaccinated Vice President-elect Kamala Harris hopes to encourage her patients to get the vaccine.

United Medical Center primarily serves wards seven and eight in the District of Columbia, which have seen some of the highest numbers of coronavirus cases throughout the pandemic.

“Most of the people who live there are poverty-stricken," UMC nurse manager and Walden Masters of Nursing student Patricia Cummings said. "They do not seek healthcare in a timely fashion. They do not indulge in primary prevention, so by the time they come to us, they are extremely sick."

Cummings said it's a community that can feel overlooked. So, to have the vice president-elect choose to get vaccinated at UMC sent her patients a clear message.

“It was extremely significant and helpful in encouraging the southeast D.C. community to embrace the vaccine, but I believe that the community felt cared for or thought of by her actions in choosing United Medical Center," Cummings said. "Wards 7 and 8, where UMC is located and affiliated with, has been one of the hardest-hit communities in D.C., so with her choosing UMC, it certainly, I believe, empowered the community.”

RELATED: DC reopens COVID-19 vaccine portal registration in select wards to residents 'with greatest risk'

Nurse Cummings said multiple people told her Harris' visit -- as well as her own advocacy -- convinced them to sign up for an appointment.

Meanwhile, the latest data from D.C. shows a huge disparity in which wards have the most COVID-19 cases as compared to those getting the most vaccines.

Maps shown on D.C.'s coronavirus portal (see above tweet) show that wards 4,5,7, and 8 have reported the most cases but some of the fewest people fully vaccinated.

RELATED: 'People with resources should not be favored in this process' | Vaccine distribution ignites equity concerns

D.C. addressed the gap last week by limiting appointment signups Saturday to wards 1,4,5,7, and 8. Monday, more slots opened up to all eligible D.C. residents.

When it comes to UMC, a spokesperson said they have vaccinated more than 60% of their staff. Cummings said some, including herself at first, have been hesitant to get shots.

“Historically there have been instances where African Americans have been used as guinea pigs… and so … I appreciate the concerns and skepticism," she said. "However, the bigger picture is that this coronavirus …we’ve seen it move from disastrous to catastrophic… I have done the research, and I have read the scientific data, and in my personal professional opinion, there is efficacy in the vaccine. And I’m comfortable with its production.”

Cummings has since received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and hopes to inspire her patients to do the same.

“I am very tired of this pandemic, you know?" she said. "We’ve been at it for over 10 months, and I’m ready for it to be over, as is everyone else, so doing everything I can within my power, to try to create awareness.”

UMC said its reservation line opens Tuesday morning at 7:30 a.m. to seniors age 65+, their staff and one family member or friend, community healthcare workers, first responders, and any others eligible under the District’s citywide vaccination plan.

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