Child COVID vaccination event takes place in Gary to get underserved communities 'back on track'

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- With more than half the kids in Gary, Indiana behind on their vaccinations, the medical community came together on Saturday to hold an event to help those families get back on track.

Michael Eggelston can finally relax after his 6-year-old son Major got the two childhood vaccines he had not been able to get for months.

"It actually gives me a lot of relief now because a lot of kids really need to get their shots updated for school because education is number one," said Eggleston.

It happened this weekend at the Back on Track vaccination event sponsored by some members of Northwest Indiana's medical community. Organizers say there's a drop in vaccination rates in underserved communities caused by the pandemic.

"Our goal is to really bring these services to the community and help people get back on track," said Dr. Danita Johnson Hughes, Edgewater Health president and CEO.

According to the Indiana Department of Health school reports, 53% of Kindergarten through 12th grade students in Gary schools have not gotten all their required shots. That compares to 26.4% statewide.

"When kids aren't coming to get their vaccinations, that also means they're not coming to get their health maintenance, so you are missing a lot of things," said Dr. Roland Walker, Gary Health Commissioner.

City health officials say minority communities are disproportionally behind in routine childhood vaccination compared to other non-minority communities.

"We just wanted to work hard today and regain the trust of parents and the community. Vaccines are important," said Felecia Barry with the Gary Health Department.

There were also wellness checks and COVID-19 vaccines for children five and older.

"She just got COVID, said parent Nicole Barksdale. "But she's up to date and we both got flu shots."

And with vaccine hesitancy still high Torriaun Everett of MD Wise says access and parity in healthcare in underserved communities are more important than ever.

"So doing these events, its just about providing access and that's the most important thing is meeting people where they are," said Everett.
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