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Task force aims to vaccinate Black Floridians

FILE - Syringes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are sits in a container as healthcare workers are inoculated, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A newly formed task force aimed at vaccinating Florida’s Black community for COVID-19 convened for the first time Wednesday morning.

The group of health care workers, pastors, historically Black colleges and universities, and Black leaders is hoping the state will work with them in their pursuit.

Recent Census estimates put Florida’s Black population around 3.4 million, or 16.9%.

But Black Floridians account for 22% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 17% of total deaths.

“This is a sense of urgency,” said the Rev. R..B Holmes of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.

The newly formed task force has made vaccinating 60% to 70% of Black Floridians for COVID-19 its mission.

Currently, Black Floridians make up less than 6% of vaccinations given so far.

“It is incumbent upon this task force to encourage family members and friends and members of our congregations and people that we associate with, colleagues, to follow us in rolling up our sleeves to take the vaccine,” said Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson Jr. of the 11th Episcopal District.

The task force is faced with the difficult task of overcoming historical distrust of the medical system among the Black community.

“We understand the medical community, how bad it has been back in the day. We get this. But in this day, too many people are dying across this country,” said Holmes.

Task force members applauded the governor’s use of Black churches as vaccine distribution centers.

They hope their efforts can be joined together.

“We’ve got to go from the spirit of criticism to the spirit of cooperation,” said Holmes.

The task force has reached out to the governor and asked to collaborate with the state’s vaccination efforts.

Capitol News Service also reached out to the governor’s office and asked whether the governor was considering the proposal but had not received a response as of publication.

Before the real work can begin, the task force still needs to secure funding sources to pay for educational advertising campaigns it plans to run.