Push to vaccinate minority communities through houses of worship to expand

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 4:38 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPS NEWS/WCJB) - Starting Monday Floridians aged 50 and up will be eligible to receive the COVID vaccine.

Part of that effort will be increasing outreach to underserved and minority communities.

Since the first pilot launched, the state’s faith based outreach program targeting minority communities has vaccinated 70,000 people at 215 houses of worship.

“Florida has been the model for how you partner with the faith based community and in fact they’re trying to roll that out in other places in other states,” said Jared Moskowitz, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Starting next week, nine more vaccination sites in minority communities will launch.

Related story: Fighting COVID: Everything you need to know about where/how to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine in NCFL

Within the next two weeks mobile units severing minority communities will increase from three buses to 15.

“All these different outreach efforts, all these different pockets, each one obviously helps try to increase shots in arms,” said Moskowitz.

Moskowitz said part of that state’s strategy is branching off smaller ‘spokes’ from main vaccine sites to penetrate deeper into communities.

He reported almost 50 percent of people using those sites are Black and brown Floridians.

The state has also knocked on 35,000 doors in minority communities, in some cases even offering a shot on the spot, but vaccine hesitancy remains an issue.

“We’re finding it’s about a ten percent conversion rate. And you know that’s why it’s hard to do these things as far as with speed,” said Moskowitz.

Reverend Dr. RB Holmes heads a statewide task force of pastors attempting to break through some of the barriers.

“The numbers not where I think they ought to be, but it’s not because we’re not trying,” said Holmes.

He believes persistence is key.

“We just gotta tell folks that these vaccines are safe, they will save lives, but we just can’t give up,” said Holmes.

Black Floridians make up only about 6 percent of those vaccinated so far.

The ultimate goal is to vaccinate 70 percent of Florida’s Black community, and while meeting that goal will be a challenge, Reverend Holmes said the state’s efforts are headed in the right direction.

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