Stacey Abrams attained near rock-star status when she spearheaded the improbable but successful campaign to flip the state of Georgia “blue” that pretty much handed the U.S. presidency to Joe Biden in November 2020.

Abrams is bringing that same level of panache, tenacity and cachet to address the deplorable racial inequities regarding the distribution of vaccinations in southwest Georgia and other regions.

The former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and ex-state representative is bringing the full weight of the organizations she founded, Fair Count and the Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP), to enable Blacks and other minorities to get vaccinated at a much greater rate than they currently are.

Abrams launched “The Road to Recovery: Count Me In” initiative in March 2021 that will work to help Black, LatinX and Native American communities eliminate the current barriers in accessing the coronavirus vaccination process.

It will be spearheaded by SEAP’s deep data and policy expertise and Fair Count’s considerable organizing strength.

The statistics that Abrams and her formidable allies showcased for reporters about the inequities are inexplicable and indefensible: Even though Blacks make up more than 75 percent of COVID deaths in Albany and Southwest Georgia, this demographic is being vaccinated about half as often as their Caucasian counterparts.

“Southwest Georgia stands as a testament to what should be done and, sadly, what is not happening in the State of Georgia,” Abrams said at the press conference. “COVID-19 has shined a light on the public healthcare disparities that the State of Georgia has acknowledged and recognized, but it has yet to suggest a plan or even a shift in data collection to address these challenges.”

Abrams said resolutely Blacks are not avoiding the vaccine as has been erroneously and widely reported on blogs and traditional media. In fact, according to a recent study Abrams’ team received, 61 percent of African Americans have or plan to get the vaccine in the very near future.

“What we are facing in Southwest Georgia is not a question of hesitancy,” Abrams said. “It is a question of access. We must do more to get people the access they need.”

Abrams said the Georgia state government has failed to provide sufficient resources and infrastructure to administer the vaccines to more underrepresented people in rural communities – or the entire state as a whole.

As of March 15, only 15.7 percent of the Georgia population had received one vaccination dose, while Alaska, Maine, and South Dakota reportedly exceed 25 percent.

This is why Abrams and Fair Count and SEAP are moving with a sense of urgency in order to get the vaccine to the people who desire it and need it most.

“This partnership and moment is critical to COVID recovery,” said Genny Castillo, the Regional Engagement Director for Southern Economic Advancement Project. “There are people who want to get this vaccine, they want to be able to feel protected, and they just don’t have access to it.”

Count Me In will work to assist Black, LatinX and Native American communities that face barriers to access in the COVID vaccination process, using an equitable recovery as a catalyst for civic participation.

It will be spearheaded by SEAP’s deep data and policy expertise and Fair Count’s considerable organizing strength.

Not surprisingly, the type of inequities exemplified in Georgia corresponds with the disparities that exist in other institutions.

“You can draw a straight line from communities being undercounted in the census and underrepresented at the polls to those same communities being overlooked and under-resourced throughout this pandemic,” said Fair Count Vice President Dr. Jeanine Abrams McLean.

“We’re here because an equitable democracy demands an equitable recovery. We’re here because the South can use the systematic disruption of COVID-19 as a reset, turning devastation into a more just system for everyone,” Abrams McLean added.

Abrams implores Georgian citizens to visit CountMeInGA.org and follow Fair Count (@faircount) and SEAP (@the_seap) on social media. Georgians who want to get vaccinated should call their public health department at 888-457-0186.

Stacey Abrams and Fair Fight are working to provide sufficient resources and infrastructure to administer the vaccines to more underrepresented people in rural communities. (Photo Credit: John Bazemore/Associated Press)

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