Photo Credit: Vickie King for Mississippi Today; mississippitoday.org
While many churches across the U.S. have been waiting to open their doors to their entire congregation for worship during the pandemic, they are taking on a new role: vaccination clinics.
In Jackson, Mississippi, St. Dominic Hospital is working with local churches to make sure more people have access to COVID-19 vaccines and also the education they need to know it’s safe and effective.
Greater Bethlehem Temple Church in Jackson was the first local church to host a vaccination event. More than 200 doses of the vaccine were delivered to the site, and every appointment was filled.
St. Dominic Hospital’s vaccination team says that churches are pillars of the community, which makes it an ideal way to vaccinate people in underserved communities. Robert Weathersby, director of clinical outreach and telehealth at St. Dominic, told local news station WLBT: “We know that there is a gap in the number of individuals in the African-American and brown communities that are getting vaccinated; and so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to come out and get vaccinated so that if they were in the future to be exposed to the virus, then it won’t be as detrimental.”
Ervin Ricks, communications director for Greater Bethlehem Temple Church, said, “We’ve had people here that came from North Mississippi, [and] South Mississippi as well. There are a lot of people that had transportation issues, and they really wanted to be able to get the vaccine. ... They know that it’s been a difficult challenge for some of them. They don’t have the access that they need to, so St. Dominic is a brand that they trust. They trust the health care professionals there, and we’re just glad to be able to partner with them to do it.”
Local volunteers help direct traffic, serve as greeters and clean up while the hospital takes care of all the medical aspects.
Jackson faith leaders have seen a steady stream of people wanting the vaccines since their churches began serving as vaccination sites. They believe it’s working.