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CLEVELAND (WJW) — In the first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says healthcare workers and others at the highest risk will get priority.

“We anticipate around Dec. 15 there will be a shipment that comes out,” DeWine said in a press conference.

“I would hope that the vaccine would be available to all, understanding that there are different tiers of who will be prioritized,” said Ebony Lampkins, Director of Outreach for The Word Church.

Expecting hundreds of thousands of doses from both Pfizer and Moderna over the coming weeks — the plan was created with guidance from the CDC.

“The goal will be to save the most lives and take those most vulnerable for whatever reason and protect them,” DeWine said.

An October interim draft of the state’s plan includes minority populations in Phase 2 among several other groups including, for example, all elderly not in Phase 1.

“Is the information reaching the communities that have the greatest need?” Lampkins asked. She says her focus is on making sure minorities know when and where to go.

In a November Gallup poll, 58 percent of Americans said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine.

In contrast, 48 percent of non-white adults were willing to be vaccinated. “History shows how a vaccine has disproportionately affected different populations of people,” said Lampkins.

She says getting the shots is an individual decision, but it will take a combined effort to relay the right information. 

“It’s how we communicate it, and how we make people most confident and wanting to get it and feeling safe when they do receive it,” she said. “It really takes the effort of all our agencies to come together to make these kinds of things a success.”

Free testing was available at the Word Church on Saturday in light of the unprecedented effects of COVID-19 on minority communities, according to a release.

“Additionally African Americans are three times more likely to be hospitalized than whites,” said Director Jana Rush of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health during a Friday briefing.

“Especially during the holiday season when we know people are gathering, we want you to get tested and make sure you’re keeping your loved ones safe,” Lampkins said of the importance of testing.

Health officials are bracing for spikes following the Thanksgiving season. 

“We may be starting to see those cases, probably going to see it more in the next few days,” said DeWine.

“If you are under 40, you need to assume you became infected during the Thanksgiving period if you gathered beyond your immediate household,” said Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan.

Officials continue to discourage gatherings for the rest of these holidays. 

“You can save lives through your sacrifices this holiday season,” Allan said.

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