Contributed by Health Plan of Nevada

While 7 in 10 Clark County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, one segment of the population remains hesitant.

According to recent data reported from 35 states by the Kaiser Family Foundation, vaccination rates in Whites are two times higher than among the African American community.

Michael Venton II, Health and Social Services Coordinator for Health Plan of Nevada

To address this prevailing concern here in Las Vegas, Michael Venton II, Health and Social Services Coordinator for Health Plan of Nevada (HPN), is taking his message on the importance and safety of the vaccination to a place where testimonials and faith are always embraced: community churches.

“There are three main reasons for vaccine hesitancy in the Black community – historical lack of trust, lack of information, and misinformation. With most often cited events referring to the Tuskegee experiment and Henrietta Lacks,” said Venton. “For many of the people that I speak to, fears they have about the vaccine are what keep them from receiving it. That is why, during my speaking engagements, I focus on answering the most common questions about the vaccine to ease those worries and let people know that it is safe and effective.”

Venton began his Community Church Outreach series in [January 2020], with the goal of engaging the Black community about a variety of health topics at their places of worship across Las Vegas. He aimed to bring information to members where they were, providing details on programs and services available through Health Plan of Nevada and helping those in attendance take advantage of programs. Unfortunately, not long after he began, the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the United States and his project was put on hold.

Nearly a year and a half later, as the state of Nevada continued to open and restrictions were eased, Venton picked up right where he left off, but with a new focus for his discussion – vaccine hesitancy among the Black community.

On June 27, 2021, during Sunday morning worship service at Greater Carver Missionary Baptist Church, located in Historic West Las Vegas. During the service, he spoke to the congregation about the COVID-19 vaccine, the process of getting vaccinated, and corrected several misconceptions that people had about the vaccine.

In addition to dispelling myths about the vaccine and sharing information from trusted sources, such as the CDC, the Southern Nevada Health District, and Health Plan of Nevada, Venton also shared his own story in hopes that his personal testimony would encourage people to get vaccinated.

“As soon as the vaccination was made available to me, I received it, and encouraged my family and friends to do so as well. I share this during my outreach events. By telling those in attendance my story and walking them through my experience, maybe they will be more likely to schedule an appointment on their own to protect themselves, their families, their friends and their community.”

Venton was inspired to start his Community Church Outreach series thanks in large part to the sense of community that he had felt for years in his home state of Mississippi. When he and his family moved to Las Vegas in 2015, he was determined to foster that same feeling and connection with his neighbors, which he has done through his personal outreach and his work with Health Plan of Nevada.

“Through my community outreach, at work and in my personal time, I seek to connect with people and be a source of support. I enjoy not only meeting people but building relationships and offering a helping hand when and where I can.”

As he continues his outreach series, Venton hopes to meet with more members of the community face-to-face, especially Black residents, answer their questions about the COVID vaccine, ease their worries, and encourage vaccination.

To access information on the COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination sites in Las Vegas, and more, use this free vaccine resource locator tool from UnitedHealthcare. To learn more about Health Plan of Nevada, visit HealthPlanofNevada.com.