A group of Black churches and other Black community members in Florida are taking part in a pilot program to distribute vaccines through the churches, reports Christianity Today.
R.B. Holmes Jr., of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, organized the effort, called the Statewide Coronavirus Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Task Force.
“We must work together as African Americans and other minorities to combat this deadly coronavirus crisis,” Holmes wrote in a column for the Tallahassee Democrat. “We are appalled that over 400,000 Americans have died from this virus. Additionally, Black and brown Americans have died at a disproportionately alarming rate. Moreover, thousands are sick in hospitals.”
Holmes pointed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, which found that black people are 1.4 times more likely to become infected with COVID-19. They are also 2.8 times more likely to die from the sickness than white people.
Experts say the black population is more likely to become infected because many minorities are not able to work from home and many also have pre-existing conditions.
Seven predominantly black churches have been identified to receive 500 doses of the vaccine. Holmes said the task force is hoping to find another 40 primarily black churches, college and community centers that can also distribute the vaccine.
“Many black and brown Floridians have died at an alarming and disproportionate rate from this virus. We firmly believe that our task force can work cooperatively and collaboratively with the state to assure that no communities will be left behind,” Holmes wrote to the governor. “... (W)e believe that your vision and the task force's mission can be a model for replication throughout the country.”
Historically, many black communities are skeptical of government help and medical doctors, says Jamil Drake, a religious studies professor at Florida State University who specializes in African American religious culture. Drake says, however, churches can provide a site “to gain the trust of African Americans.”
Janice Minnis, an administrative assistant at the Koinonia Worship Center and Village in Pembroke Park, said that is exactly what the church is trying to do. The worship center was one of the Florida churches chosen to distribute the vaccine and in early January, distributed 500 doses of the vaccine.
“The church gives hope through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” she said. “We ought to be a beacon of light in our community as well.”
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.