Older couple talking to medical staff

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on racial and minority populations, including American Indian and Alaska Native communities. National Minority Health Month in April raises awareness of health disparities among racial and minority populations. The 2021 theme is #VaccineReady and is focused on empowering communities and improving vaccine confidence.

Krystal Hays

“Everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity should have access to credible vaccine information and the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccination,” shared Krystal Hays, DNP, RN, Great Plains Quality Innovation Network (QIN) regional project manager. “Receiving a COVID-19 vaccination is an important step towards preventing the spread of COVID-19, protecting the most vulnerable communities and ending the pandemic.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) values vaccination and enlisted the Great Plains QIN to increase vaccine confidence and improve vaccination rates for COVID-19, influenza and pneumococcal vaccination rates in North and South Dakota. This initiative will complement existing community coalition, nursing home, and Partnership for Advancement of Tribal Health (PATH) quality improvements efforts.

Minority populations make up just over 30 percent of the total population of North Dakota and South Dakota, according to the US Census Bureau. American Indian/Alaska Native is the largest minority group, accounting for 15 percent and including the twelve tribal reservations within the Dakotas. Hispanic/Latino populations represent eight percent and Black/African American is the third largest with five percent.