WASHINGTON — As vaccine disparities persist, with many Black and Brown communities lagging behind, leaders are working to bring doses directly to the people who need them most.
D.C. Councilmember for Ward 6, Charles Allen, worked with Howard University Hospital, Mount Moriah Baptist Church and Serve Your City/Ward 6 Mutual Aid to set up a mobile vaccination clinic at the church Friday morning.
Senior Pastor at Mount Moriah, Lucius Dalton, said that many of the 180 people who got their Johnson & Johnson shot at the clinic said they had not been planning on getting vaccinated. Offering doses at the church changed their mind.
“The church, especially the African American church, has always been a place of trust, of hope, and I think that when persons see that it is happening at a church, they feel a sense of security," Dalton said. "They feel as if everything is going to be alright simply because they’re coming to a church.”
66-year-old Juanita Jones and her 76-year-old godmother fall into that category. Both were skeptical of the vaccine at first.
“I’m a big mouth person, but I’m a scaredy-cat," Jones said. "I was so scared. And I just was so happy when I went inside and got this shot today because it means so much to me.”
Her godmother, Sallie Dancy, called the mobile community vaccination site "awesome," saying it was a much better option for her than a mass vaccination clinic.
The pair also said the city was helping them to coordinate transportation to and from their appointments.
Maurice Cook, with Serve Your City and Ward 6 Mutual Aid, has a specific focus as he goes door to door, encouraging neighbors to vaccinate -- the Black and Brown community.
"We have to be very focused, to say who was actually victimized not by COVID-19 because all of us are victimized by COVID-19," Cook said. "But people who are victimized by both the virus and the structure in the system, as that responds to the virus."
Councilmember Charles Allen and other community leaders spotted one group being left out in Ward 6 -- Hill East -- which is why they chose Mount Moriah as the clinic site.
"It's going to take this type of intentional, direct neighborhood-focused outreach to make sure we can reach folks," Allen said. "We've had seniors all day long. But yet, we've been vaccinating seniors for months here in DC. The difference was, it was a trusted provider. It was a trusted site in which somebody they trusted came and knocked on their door or gave them a phone call and told them to come on out. That's what's going to that's what it's going to take to make sure we can reach all of our neighbors."
Across the Potomac, Arlington County is also working to reach these communities through a new partnership. The Department of Human Services will be scheduling some appointments based on referrals from non-profits that work with Black, Latino, and low-income communities.
“Many people said they weren't able to get the appointments until someone advocated for them," Howard University Hospital Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Shelly Mcdonald-Pinkett said. "So I do know that those communities of color, there are many people who are interested in being vaccinated. And so we need to go to them.”
Now, Jones and Dancy encourage everyone to get vaccinated for themselves and their families.