There are new efforts to get vaccines for underserved communities in southwest Florida. A partnership between churches and a district health department could give more parishioners the opportunity to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The Florida Department of Health in Lee County is working with pastors at churches including Mount Hermon Ministries and Friendship Baptist Church in Fort Myers to vaccinate more people in underserved minority communities.
DOH-Lee is considering setting up vaccination sites on church grounds to target some of the most vulnerable communities
Pastor James Bing of Friendship Baptist Church is on a mission to ensure that more people in the ward he serves receive the vaccine
“I got involved because I am one of the people at high risk. I will be 83 years old on my next birthday, ”said Pastor Bing. “I had triple bypass surgery. I’ve had two strokes. I take 11 tablets a day. “
Bing says how many people he knows he tried to get the vaccine at the STARS Complex site in late December but couldn’t stand in line.
“There weren’t 20 people in our community waiting in line to get the vaccine,” Bing said. “We have people who come to this church from more affluent communities and displace the people who live here.”
Since the county moved on appointments, it is still difficult to get an appointment for the vaccine and many people in Bing’s community have problems with transportation.
Because of this, he’s glad he got the vaccination at Renaissance Preserve, where the county held a vaccination event for underserved communities.
The county is working with local churches to provide more vaccines to minority communities and dispel myths about the shot.
“Last interview, only about 7 percent of all vaccinations that have taken place in the county have been African-American or Hispanic,” said Pastor William Glover of Mount Hermon Ministries. “The church is a community center, so a safe place, a safe place with partners that the community knows.”
Glover said more vaccinations are crucial in minority communities, which are particularly hard hit by COVID-19.
“A lot of people of color have underlying and chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol,” said Glover. “In relation to the population, we are disproportionately infected with the virus.”
According to Lee County, LeeTran is working with LeeTran to provide transportation to the vaccination center at RSW Airport for those in need if they have an appointment.
Pastors Bing and Glover told us that they are ready and willing to open their church doors to vaccinate more people in their ward.
Glover hopes his church and others like him can be part of the effort to deliver this life-saving shot.
“One of the most important factors in behavioral health decisions people make. One of the most important influences is their belief systems and clergy,” said Glover. “Ao, whenever you can use these alleyways to get a positive public health message out, I think this is always a good partnership.”
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