Black women are at the helm of vaccination efforts in Springfield, Massachusetts. The unique group, which has been dubbed the Vax Force, has been working to make the COVID-19 vaccine available for people of color and members of low-income communities.

The committee is led by Helen Caulton-Harris, Springfield's Health and Human Services Commissioner. Other members include Denise R. Jordan, Executive Director of the Springfield Housing Authority; Maggie Eboso, Infection Prevention & Control Coordinator at Mercy Medical Center; Yemisi Oloruntola-Coates, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Baystate Health System; Angela Mack, CEO of the Axiom Blue Corporation; Ashley Bogle, Director of Legal Services & Assistant General Counsel at Health New England.

The members of the Springfield Vaccination Committee. Image: Ed Cohen

“COVID-19 has further exposed health disparities in Black and [other] communities of color, including negatively impacting access to housing, employment, food, and education," Caulton-Harris tells EBONY. "As a public health commissioner, I wanted to eliminate any barriers to vulnerable communities being vaccinated and that began with giving access to the vaccine, providing information, and understanding cultural nuances. The Black women serving on the City of Springfield’s COVID-19 task force have been essential in executing that strategy."

In addition to making the vaccine available to 20 communities that have been identified as some of the hardest hit by the pandemic in their area, the Vax Force is also working to establish trust by providing accurate information and reliable resources about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Recently, the Springfield Vaccination Committee held a Faith and Science Clinic at the St. John's Congregational Church. According to Western Mass News, the Vax Force-powered event was a collaborative effort between the faith leaders of 11 congregations in the area, who all came together to dispel some of the myths and misinformation that have discouraged parishioners from getting vaccinated.

“Our surveys showed that well over half the people believe their faith leader before any other information source, and as you know there is a lot of misinformation out there,” Springfield's Mayor Domenic Sarno told Mass Live at the April clinic, which also provided residents with the opportunity to get vaccinated. “We will do whatever it takes to get shots in the arms of every Springfield resident.”

According to Sarno, between the Massachusetts mass vaccination site at an area mall and Vax Force neighborhood clinics––which are said to have been conveniently placed in areas where residents feel most comfortable–– one-third of the Springfield population have already been vaccinated.

To learn more about the Vax Force, click here.