MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION-TV) Those who have yet to receive the vaccine may have seen Project VIDA in different parts of the county.
In February, all residents with the 93905 zip code in East Salinas received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite that achievement in the city, in Monterey County, 85% of residents have already had their first vaccination and only 75% are fully vaccinated. But one of the statistics that alarmed the government the most was that only half of the Native and African-American communities have their first COVID-19 vaccine.
African-Americans have a 48% vaccination rate in Monterey County and Native American is at 52%. That is significantly lower than any other group.
We set out to find out, talking to these communities and this is what they told us.
"People have information, they're not trusting it," said Vanessa Lopez-Littleton, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services president who is studying why the county has such a low vaccination rate.
"There's a tremendous level of resentment that still exists in my family about what happened," said Michael Woody, a representative of the Salina Tribe that boats parts of Monterey County and San Luis Obispo. "So when I look at my mother, for example, it took her a year to get vaccinated because she has so little trust in the government."
Woody is a professional engineer who spends his spare time representing his native tribe. He recounted how San Luis Obispo sheriff's deputies drove his great-grandmother and her family off their property on Toro Creek by Morro Bay at gunpoint.
"You have to keep in mind that our families have been dealing with the theft of our land, the theft of our culture and a genocide that's been going on in this country, especially here in California," Woody said. "So when the government comes and says, "Hey, everybody, trust us, get vaccinated," there are a lot of people in our families who say, "No, we don't trust the government."
Between the enslavement and land theft that many Native American and African American families experienced, these communities suffered at the hands of the U.S. government - many in less than a century.
“Everybody knows the Village Project in Seaside. The fact that we are doing this, then they can trust us more than they would trust someone they don't know. You know? Someone who would just come up to him and give him this information. Why would they believe him anyway?,” said Jerry Robinson from The Village Project which is dedicated to helping meet the needs of the underserved community-especially the African-American community.
But what else can the government do to serve these communities?
"Come knock on our door, seriously, knock on our door, sit with us, share a meal with us, talk with us," Woody said. "Hear our stories in the first person and see why we have that distrust."
"We want to listen in the communities to see what the best methods are. And so we in the Vida program can mold ourselves to the needs of the community to slowly increase that percentage," said Joel Hernandez Laguna, one of the officers of the Community Foundation for Monterey County. He, with the help of the rest of the foundation, coordinates the vaccination centers.