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Mobile sound truck in Prince George's County looks to spread confidence in COVID-19 vaccine

The concern of the lack of trust in communities of color for the COVID-19 vaccine has worried state officials. They are hoping this truck will help build confidence.

PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — A mobile truck in Prince George's County is helping spread the word about vaccines and their importance in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Maryland Department of Health is using a mobile sound truck to Prince George's County as part of GoVAX outreach campaign, according to a release from state health officials.

The truck, outfitted with COVID-19 informational banners, will broadcast prevention and vaccination messages from its public-address system in Spanish and English. Volunteers will distribute informational flyers in Spanish and English and provide free face masks at designated stops along the route, according to health officials in a news release. 

"The pandemic has presented challenges for all Marylanders and disproportionately impacted some of the state's minority communities," said Acting MDH Secretary Dennis Schrader. "The GoVAX campaign is designed to bring information and resources to areas hardest hit and help Marylanders make informed choices about getting vaccinated."

Communities of color in Prince George's County have been wary of getting the vaccine, and numbers show this in an issue that Maryland health officials have been trying to fight. This is one step that they believe will help promote getting vaccinated.

A study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 35% of Black adults responded that they would probably not or definitely not get vaccinated, even if it was determined to be safe by scientists and available for free. Another Kaiser Family Foundation analysis also found that issues of equity, discrimination and access play a role in how vaccines are administered.

The concern of the lack of trust in communities of color has worried federal officials and state officials across the country due to multiple federal health programs in the early to mid-20th Century, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which has played a part in the distrust.

"MDH first used the sound truck in Baltimore's 21224 ZIP code to help decrease the spread of COVID-19 and improve outcomes," said Mark Martin, Deputy Director of MDH's Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities. "The sound truck is one of many outreach activities we will be using as part of the GoVAX campaign to bring information and resources to underserved communities and vulnerable populations across the state."

Maryland has not performed as well as other states in the distribution of the vaccine, with some eligible citizens who can get the vaccine — teachers and senior citizens — being turned away from appointments because of the shortage of doses in the state. 

Gov. Larry Hogan has said recently that the state just hasn't been given enough vaccines, and that the distribution of doses the state has been a problem.

“They can’t schedule an appointment for a vaccine that does not yet exist,” Hogan said recently in a news conference. “The basic problem is pretty simple: we need more damn vaccines.”

The governor said he has made several requests to the federal government, including using the Defense Production Act, for officials to make more COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, he also said he wants the federal government to coordinate more closely with states about vaccine allocations.

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