Every Sunday, the Rev. Joseph Jackson Jr. praises the Lord before his congregation at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church Milwaukee, a city in the U.S. state of Wisconsin, but as the coronavirus surging his Black community, the Rev is now praising something else the community needs: the COVID-19 vaccine. church
Since last fall Rev. Joseph started encouraging people to get their shots, Reuters reported.
We want to continue to encourage our people to get out, get your shots. I got both of mine,” Jackson said to applause at the church in Milwaukee on a recent Sunday.
In the report, Reuters said that Members of Black communities across the U.S. have disproportionately fallen sick or died from the virus, this made some church leaders use their influence and trusted reputations to fight back through religious sermons, phoning people to encourage vaccinations, and hosting testing clinics and vaccination events in church buildings.
Some want to extend their efforts beyond the fight against COVID-19 and give their flocks a place to seek health care for other ailments at a place they trust — the church.
Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the country, according to the studies by the Brookings Institution. Ericka Sinclair, CEO of Health Connections, Inc., which administers vaccinations, says to Reuters that’s why putting vaccination centers in churches and other trusted locations is so important.
“Access to services is not the same for everyone. It’s just not. And it is just another reason why when we talk about health equity, we have … to do a course correction,” she said.
In Milwaukee, where Census data indicates Blacks make up about 39% of the city’s population, nearly 43% of all coronavirus-related deaths have been in the Black community.
The report also indicated to the Choose Healthy Life, a national initiative involving Black clergy, United Way of New York City and others. It has been awarded a $9.9 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant to expand vaccinations and and make permanent the “health navigators” who are already doing coronavirus testing and vaccinations in churches.
The navigators will bring in experts for vaccinations, such as the flu, and to screen for ailments that are common in Black communities, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, AIDS and asthma. The effort aims to reduce discomfort within Black communities about seeking health care, either due to concerns about racism or a historical distrust of science and government.
The initiative has so far been responsible for over 30,000 vaccinations in the first three months in 50 churches in New York; Newark, New Jersey; Detroit; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta. church
The federal funding will expand the group’s effort to 100 churches, including in rural areas, in 13 states and the District of Columbia, and will help establish an infrastructure for the health navigators to start screenings. Quest Diagnostics and its foundation has already provided funding and testing help.
The effect of COVID-19 on the Black community has reinforced the need to address race-related disparities in health care.
At a recent vaccination clinic in Milwaukee at St. Matthew, a Christian Methodist Episcopal church, Melanie Paige overcame her fears to get vaccinated. Paige, who has lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, said the church clinic helped motivate her, along with encouragement from her son.
“I was more comfortable because I belong to the church and I know I’ve been here all my life. So that made it easier.” church