Will County’s vaccine equity manager aims to ‘build vaccine confidence’

Community-based organizations in Will County advocated for the hiring of a vaccine equity manager

The Will County Health Department has announced the hiring of its vaccine equity manager to help reach communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department hired Vinita Voss, a Joliet native, to fill the newly created role that many community leaders advocated for to address the needs of underserved communities as the county continues its vaccine rollout, according to a news release.

Voss is a graduate of Spelman College and has a law degree from Vanderbilt University. Her work experience in the Will County area includes time as a health equity manager at the Spanish Community Center in Joliet and as a partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau.

“It’s important to work with community partners, especially those that have earned the trust of our Black and brown communities who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Voss said in the release.

With experience in outreach positions and working with community-based organizations and residents of color, Voss and the health department hope to encourage populations who have yet to get vaccinated, to get their shots.

“Right now, through our communities, we need to build vaccine confidence,” Voss said in the release. “So much more must be done when it comes to vaccinating against COVID-19. For some, there is mistrust of government, while for others there is a mistrust of medicine, or sometimes both. Other issues such as transportation or the times of vaccination clinics may also serve as a barrier to getting vaccinated.”

Sue Olenek, executive director of the Will County Health Department, said Wednesday that Voss already was designing a survey to gather more data on the populations who have yet to be vaccinated.

The hiring of a vaccine equity manager came after weeks of local organizations pushing for such an effort as Black and Latino residents were underrepresented among those who were vaccinated in the early weeks of the county’s program.

For information, visit willcountyhealth.org.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.