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Douglas County News | Statewide News | 01/19/21

‘Lead by example,’ Charles Drew Health Center CEO gets COVID-19 vaccine

By Michelle Bandur, KETV

This story was published by the KETV on January 6, 2021.

Minorities make up nearly half of Nebraska’s COVID-19 cases, but they only account for a quarter of the state’s vaccinations right now. Whites account for about 75% of the doses given out so far.

At Omaha’s Charles Drew Health Center, about 60% of the staff have received the first dose of the vaccine.

CEO Kenny McMorris is one of the staff members and by getting the vaccine, he wants to show the community it’s safe and to trust the process.

“It was very similar to getting a flu shot, so there wasn’t much that startled me about that experience,” McMorris said. He said he wants minorities to feel comfortable getting the vaccine too.

“For me, I wanted to be a leader, not only for my community but for my family and say, ‘Hey, it is important we do this. It’s important that we show this is safe and it’s important we lead by example.'”

McMorris said representation matters and wants to see more pictures of minorities receiving the vaccine, thus far, the majority of those getting the shot in the metro are white. He said that adds to minorities overall mistrust of the health care system.

“This country has had a history of not being transparent with minority populations. That’s not in the past, that is literally happening right now.”

Charles Drew is working with the Douglas County Health Department, community advocates and nonprofits to bring awareness and education at a grassroots level.

McMorris said the online registration site is needed and helpful, but not everyone has access and there can be a language barrier.

That’s why he says staff will make phone calls and home visits.

“Let’s do drive up clinics and we need to do some level of mass vaccination but I firmly believe we have to take the vaccinations to where the people are.”

McMorris said he hopes the two other vaccine trials get approved quickly so more people can get vaccinated. He said everyone needs to be patient.