Lee County NAACP helping seniors, underserved communities get COVID-19 vaccine

Reporter: Nicole Gabe Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
People waiting for vaccine appointments. Credit: WINK News

Underserved communities are struggling to get access to the COVID-19 vaccine; a lack of internet access and reliable transportation makes trying to get an appointment very difficult, which is why the NAACP is helping out by transporting seniors with appointments to vaccine locations.

Brother James Muwakkil, president of the Lee County NAACP, says Southwest Florida counties need to focus on vaccinating these communities. He says he’s been transporting some of the seniors there to get their shots himself, but there are still seniors with medical conditions in need of help.

“There are people all across Lee County, regardless of race, color or creed, who need transportation,” Muwakkil said. “They need someone to help them understand the internet process of how to go online. The Health Department has recently put their vaccination appointments online. In doing that, they cut out a great many people.”

Black Americans are more likely on average to be hospitalized with—even die from—COVID-19, but they have the lowest vaccination rate of any racial or ethnic group. Muwakkil says a lack of confidence is the biggest setback the Black community, specifically, is facing. He says people are nervous because of past events, like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment: According to the Centers for Disease Control, U.S. scientists monitored around 400 Black men with syphilis but did not treat them for the disease or tell them they had it. The study lasted roughly four decades, from 1932 to 1972.

But Muwakkil, a cancer survivor, still says it’s important to put your trust in the COVID-19 vaccine. He says he and his wife have received both doses, and hopes they can set an example and help rebuild confidence in the vaccine among Black communities.

“There’s no side effects to worry about, there’s not side effects, no one should be afraid of taking this vaccination,” Muwakkil said.

WINK News has asked both Lee and Collier county health officials if they plan to open pop-up sites at underserved communities; they have not yet responded. If you don’t have internet service, each county in SWFL has a number you can call to pre-register for vaccine appointments:

  • Charlotte: 866-200-9160 or (TTY) 833-990-3549
  • Collier: 866-201-4885 or (TTY) 833-990-3490
  • DeSoto: 866-201-7013 or (TTY) 833-476-1026
  • Glades: 866-201-6695 or (TTY) 833-476-1524
  • Hendry: 866-201-6745 or (TTY) 833-990-3548
  • Lee: 866-200-3468 or (TTY) 855-665-6608

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