‘Reaching the Unreached’: Lack of income and resources are major cause of declining immunization rates in Vermilion County

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DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) – Vermilion County continues to have one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in our viewing area.

The county that is home to Danville is second only to Shelby County by about 1%.

Other counties in Illinois that are home to metropolitan cities have vaccination rates comparable to the state, with more than 60% of the population vaccinated. Macon County’s rate is in the lower end but still close to 10% ahead of Vermilion, which trails at less than 42%.

So why is this?

It boils down to a gap in income and resources.

But Vermilion County has one thing to do: a dedicated attorney in the local NAACP.

Ed Butler wears many hats as president of the NAACP Danville Chapter, but for the past year and a half he’s been going door to door across the county with the help of a small team called the “COVID Navigators “. .

“We’re trying to educate people about, you know, vaccination,” Butler told passers-by through the gates of the Fair Oaks apartment complex in Danville.

Butler, himself, is in a high-risk population at 70 and after losing his niece to the coronavirus, this mission hits him close to home.

Butler and his crew are persistent. They will return two, three, even four times to a shelter, until they hear: “That’s why I went to get vaccinated”, words of a young person who answered the door .

“My man!” Butler exclaimed in response.

He told us that he was reaching the unreached.

“The poorest areas, the low-income areas,” he said. “…who are not vaccinated.”

“Some have transportation issues, some don’t get the news and then you have people you know who are so negative about it,” Butler said when asked why low-income areas were less vaccinated.

In an environment lacking access to health care and education, he said misinformation is rampant.

“It’s strange that today, you know, when we have a headache or something like that, we take Aleeve or we take a Tylenol and look on the bottle, it will let you know everything it could cause, kidney or liver issues. And what do we do? We’re still on that pill, you know. And so, we’re trying to convince them that the shot is good,” he explained. .

Local Carl McCullough received his first chance just two weeks ago.

“But I had to make up my own mind,” he told us.

Butler has been on McCullough’s door several times, but he said it was his younger brother who ultimately changed his mind.

“Well, he kept bugging me,” laughed McCullough.

The COVID Navigator program is more than door-to-door. However, Butler said he reached nearly 3,000 people this way.

“We are going to reach more people,” he added.

Some days they package and distribute cleaning supplies and others they do door-to-door deliveries for people with the virus.

It’s all done with grants, plus a small supplement from Vermilion County Council’s US bailout stipend.

“When he’s in, he’s all in,” board chairman Larry Baughn said.

Baughn said he and other members were inspired by the Butler’s mission, covering “the farthest northern part of the county to the southern part of the county.”

Although the money is drying up at the end of June and the number of vaccines is less than 50%, we asked Baughn if there was a possibility of additional funding.

“Well, I think that’s something Mr. Butler and I talked about once, we’ll have to see when we get to it,” he replied.

At least until then, Butler will continue to take his first steps, while striving to bring his community closer to normality.

“If we all pay attention, you know, we can all save lives,” he said.

Butler couldn’t quantify how many people he contacted who actually changed their minds and got vaccinated, but the Vermilion County program was successful enough that he was also asked to help in Champaign County. The “Navigators” have been knocking on doors since January.

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