MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There continues to be gaps in equitable vaccine distribution across the country, and in Minnesota. State officials and community partners are taking steps to close the gaps.

M Health Fairview is working with people they call “cultural brokers.”

“The pandemic hit everyone differently, especially my culture,” Lwepaw Kacher said.

Kacher is a member of the Karen community in East St. Paul. She’s also a cultural broker with M Health Fairview, acting as an interpreter to educate trusted community leaders about the vaccine.

“My responsibility and my role is to provide accurate information to the community member,” Kacher said.

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She says her community focuses on taking care of each other, even when one is sick, so it’s especially important to get the right information to families.

“We live together in multi-generational houses and apartments. We share houses with our grandmother, and father and mother, and little child and everybody,” Kacher said.

M Health Fairview has partnered with several cultural brokers who understand the complexities that barriers in their community can cause. They’re creating videos that translate culturally-relevant vaccine information to minority communities. So far M Health Fairview has held 57 community vaccine events, administering more than 10,000 doses.

The state’s vaccine equity director Dr. Nathan Chomilo says community partners are key.

“There’s a lot of ways we can continue to operationalize equity in our access continue to engage around communication, how these vaccines are safe and effective to really see these gaps hopefully decrease,’ Dr. Chomilo said.

He says some clinics are dropping eligibility requirements for vaccinations in underserved areas.

“So having some flexibility with some of those, really helps again reach some of the populations that are just harder to reach,” Dr. Chomilo said.

Kacher says she hopes the effort provides education and access to more Minnesotans.

“We want to be vaccinated because we want to go back to our normal life,” Kacher said.

Vaccine distribution data is released every Friday. You can find a link to the latest information here.

Jennifer Mayerle