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'Change came' | Prince William Co. church to open its doors for vaccinations following push for vaccine equity

The First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries will administer more than 2,000 vaccines over two days.

PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. — A demand for more vaccine equity seems to have been heard in Prince William County as a new temporary vaccination site opens at a church Thursday on the east side of the county.

This comes after a letter sent by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Prince William County Chapter to state officials pushing for more equitable vaccine access.

According to the Virginia Department of Health data Black residents only make up 12% of people fully vaccinated, despite making up 22% of the county’s population.

57% of white residents are fully vaccinated, per the VDH vaccine site.

"What we noticed earlier, maybe a month or so ago, that most of the vaccinations were taking place in the western part of the county which raised great concern for us. And so we decided that we perhaps needed to reach out to the administration and voice our concern to them,” First Mount Zion Baptist Church Pastor Luke Torian said. Torian said in addition to the letter being sent he made calls to the administration. Torian is also a Virginia Delegate.

“We began to raise our voices, collectively, and as a result of that change came,” Torian said.

RELATED: Loudoun, Prince William counties want control of their health departments

Credit: VDH

The percentage of Black residents fully vaccinated has gone up compared to the beginning of the month when the letter was sent to state health officials.

“The administration responded and now we have several sites in the eastern part of the county giving vaccination shots,”  Torian said. “Having it set up here at Mt. Zion we have provided an opportunity for the local community on the eastern part of the county easy access to a facility.”

Letter sent by NCBW/PWCC Members to state health officials.

Prince William Health District Director Alison Ensher said the county has initiatives some residents may not have been aware of regarding vaccine equity. She said the department has also met with the Governor’s Office of Health Equity and Inclusion.

RELATED: A new mass vaccination site opens in Prince William County. Here's what you can expect

“Part of one of our strategies to ensure that people of color both Black and Brown, not only get vaccinated but feel comfortable in making that choice,” Ensher said. “It’s not just vaccinating it's also providing information. We've had town hall meetings both with the African American population, on the radio, as well as the Hispanic Latino population.”

Ensher said COVID-19 emphasized something the county already knew in terms of equity and said the health district had been working pre-pandemic on an office of equity and inclusion.

Torian said now that resources have expanded to the eastern part of the county, he’s confident the equity gap will close.

“We have at least three sites now on the eastern part of the county that where vaccination shots will be given. So, I think, I think the gap is closing,” Torian said.

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