ATLANTA — As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout speeds up, many minorities are being left behind, and the Atlanta area faith community is stepping up to help.
St. Philip AME Church, St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church, and Jackson Memorial Baptist Church are involved the effort to vaccinate at least 2,000 people March 11-13.
Shauna Markes-Wilson, a healthcare supervisor with Walgreens, said the effort to offer vaccinations in churches, oftentimes pillars of Black communities, was a link to underserved communities.
"The COVID vaccine is new, but our expertise with immunization is not,” Markes-Wilson said. “By partnering with churches, we can get everyone in underserved communities to make sure we can give them that equal access to the vaccine.”
Several church leaders at St. Philip AME recognized the disproportionate hardship suffered in minority communities due to COVID-19 and saw the pharmacy's initiative as a good-faith effort to educate those who might be hesitant, suspicious, or fearful about the vaccine.
“There are some people who won’t go to a mass vaccination site," St. Philip AME senior pastor Rev. William Watley said. "They’ll come to their church because they know their church, trust the leadership of their church. They know the people who are helping with the process.”
Ridesharing app Uber was on hand to give people wanting vaccinations free rides to and from the sites. While appointments aren't required, they are strongly suggested to take advantage of the limited supply of Pfizer vaccine being offered.
Staff and volunteers told 11Alive they would work with people who did not have an ID, insurance or other information necessary to get a vaccine elsewhere. Staff will be back April 1-3 for follow up appointments, which are scheduled after patients get their first dose.
Fulton County has also set up a program involving education and equity surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine to reach minorities.