Historically Black church hosts clinic to urge COVID-19 vaccinations

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As leaders call for more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a Grand Rapids church is trying to help close the racial gap.

State data released for the first time Tuesday broke down the races of those who have already gotten at least one dose. About 42% are white, 4% are Black, 1% are Asian or Pacific Islander and 53% are either unknown or listed as other.

Pastor Howard Earle Jr. of New Hope Baptist Church told News 8 he is designating his church off Albany Street SW and Ionia Avenue as a COVID-19 vaccination site to encourage more members of minority groups to get the shots.

“COVID-19 impacts our community at a much more egregious rate than other community, so access was important,” Earle said.

Earle partnered with Spectrum Health and the Kent County Health Department to create a safe space in the church’s gym.

“It’s not necessarily basketball, it’s vaccinations,” Earle said.

Public health workers said they selected New Hope because of its location, accessibility to public transportation and popularity in the community.

“We do intend to reach a high percentage of African American population just by having it in that location,” Teresa Branson, deputy health officer for the Kent County Health Department, said.

Authorities said more than 1,800 first doses of the vaccine have been given at New Hope, as well as 249 second doses.

“We want to make sure the vaccine is as widely available as we can make it,” Branson said.

Health leaders said they understand African Americans’ historical mistrust with medicine, but like Earle don’t want the past to keep them from the medical attention they deserve.

“This vaccine is a good thing,” Earle said. “It’s good for us; it’s good for all of us.”

The next clinic for initial doses is scheduled for Thursday, with second-dose clinics set for Friday, then March 8, March 16 and March 25, with a few hundred appointments available each day. Anyone who is at least 65 years old and is looking to get the shots may call 833.734.0016 to schedule an appointment.

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