King handed the women flyers and encouraged them to learn more

Today is the first day we are going into this community to learn what the barriers are,” she told the volunteers, most of whom lived in Newark. “There still is a lot of education to be done.”

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They broke into pairs and began walking through a retail corridor.

One of the first people they stopped was Derrick Jones, who was walking to work at a shop on Broadway. Jones, 60, who is Black, said through a mask that he didn’t trust the government’s rapid deployment of the vaccines and wouldn’t get a shot unless he felt comfortable that it was safe.

“It’s a possibility, but I don’t see my mind changing,” he said.

The volunteers, Kim King, 52, a community health worker at a local nonprofit, and Philip Reinhardt, 22, a student at NJIT, listened closely and then chatted with Jones for a few minutes. It turned out that King and Jones had friends in common.

“Well, if you change your mind, hit me up,” King said.

The lack of trust in the vaccine development process is a common concern among those who have not got vaccinated, particularly among Black people, according to a Pew Research Center study. Salazar de Noguera tells outreach workers to emphasize that the vaccines have been shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths, and to appeal to their sense of duty in not inadvertently infecting people they love or work with.

King and Reinhardt next stopped to chat with John Melendez, 51, who was walking with a cane, a mask under his nose. Melendez told them he was homeless and had been turned away from a nearby vaccination site because he didn’t have identification.

“You don’t need an ID to get a vaccination,” King said.

“Oh, no?” Melendez asked. “What I gotta do?”

King offered to arrange an appointment at the NJIT site, but Melendez said he’d get his daughter’s help setting it up. He took the flyers and said he would call for a free ride.

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“Protect yourself by any means,” King said.

“That’s what I’m going to do,” Melendez responded.

At a tire shop, King and Reinhardt chatted with two customers, women in their early 20s who said they had no plans to get vaccinated. Mercedes Colon said she’d been sickened by other vaccinations and feared the side effects. Gema Quintero said she was “still looking into it.”

Reinhardt told the women that Covid-19 had recently hit his household, infecting everyone in his family except his father, who’d got his first dose of the vaccine.

King handed the women flyers and encouraged them to learn more.

“It’s not just about protecting yourself, but it’s about protecting your loved ones,” she said.

Afterward, Colon said in an interview that she had relatives with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of getting sick. She said she would now reassess getting vaccinated. “I’m not completely closed off to it,” she said.

Quintero said she also would mull it over. “I wasn’t going to do it. But now I’m not sure,” she said.

Nurse Maritza Beniquez, right, became the first person in New Jersey to get the shot when she received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at University Hospital, in Newark on Dec. 15.
Nurse Maritza Beniquez, right, became the first person in New Jersey to get the shot when she received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at University Hospital, in Newark on Dec. 15.Kirsten Luce / Pool via AP
The ‘expensive last mile’
In Yazoo County, Mississippi, where only 23 percent of the population has received one dose, outreach has relied on places of worship like the Tulane Baptist Church, which hosted a vaccination clinic in its parking lot May 5.

Among the 45 people who showed up was Jeffrey Montson, who said he’d received repeated calls from two aunts who were members of the church.

He said he appeased them by saying he would get vaccinated eventually. But Montson, 51, wasn’t sure the vaccines were safe. He told himself: “No, I’m not getting it.”

But the aunts kept calling him, and he finally relented, walking 10 minutes to the church, where he got his first dose.

If he hadn’t shown up, “I would never hear the end of it,” Montson said.

Thaddeus Williams, right, pastor of Tulane Baptist Church, talks outside of a vaccination event in the congregation’s parking lot in Yazoo, Miss.
Thaddeus Williams, right, pastor of Tulane Baptist Church, talks outside of a vaccination event in the congregation’s parking lot in Yazoo, Miss. Williams spent part of the morning trying to grab the attention of passersby.Bracey Harris / NBC News
In South Los Angeles, where just 38 percent of residents had got a shot as of last week despite infections outpacing the rest of Los Angeles County since the beginning of the pandemic, a volunteer group called Get Out the Shot worked with the Kedren Community Health Center to organize a vaccination clinic May 9 at the Pueblo del Rio apartment complex. The group spent the two days beforehand going door to door to spread the word.

One of the volunteers, Brian Ramos, 18, said most people who had not been vaccinated either didn’t know where the nearest vaccination site was or had no way to get there. Others were undocumented migrants who feared interactions with authorities.

“I’ve told people, ‘I know how to make appointments,’” he said. “They told me the only problem for them was transportation.”

More than 60 people got their first doses at Pueblo del Rio, according to Dr. Jerry P. Abraham, who leads Kedren’s vaccination efforts. The center has also held pop-up clinics at factories, a Black fraternity and a church.

“This is that very expensive last mile,” Abraham said. “You literally have to go hunt down those arms.”

Facing skepticism
In Detroit, the mayor’s office is using a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send canvassers to 230,000 homes by summer’s end.

Image: Door-knock initiative to tackle COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, in Detroit
Victoria Kovari directs canvassers including Jacqueline Robinson, center, during a door-knock campaign to provide information about vaccinations in Detroit on May 4.Emily Elconin / Reuters
“We’re not just dropping literature,” said Victoria Kovari, who ran the city’s 2020 census campaign before leading the vaccination outreach operation. “We’re actually trying to have conversations with people.”

Those conversations don’t always go well. During canvassing May 4, several residents refused to open their doors. One woman, who was sitting in her car as a canvasser approached, drove off, saying, “I don’t want to be a Tuskegee experiment.” She was referring to a decadeslong study by the federal government that withheld treatment to Black men with syphilis.

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