JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Local and state pastors came together Friday to educate and encourage communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 to get the vaccine.
The Rev. Dr. RB Holmes, chairman and organizer of the Statewide Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Taskforce and president of the Tallahassee Chapter of the National Action Network, gathered the group at Edward Waters College, which is becoming the headquarters for the task force.
Holmes, pastor of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee, said only 15% of African-Americans in Florida have been vaccinated and he hopes to grow that number to 70% by the end of the year.
“My friends, this virus has not taken a vacation, even in our own great state of Florida,” Holmes said. “Two million so residents have contracted the virus and over 32,000 people have died.”
Before the three FEMA-sponsored sites closed Thursday because of weather on Wednesday, the 30,000th vaccine was distributed at a federal site in Jacksonville. Despite the milestone, the sites have struggled with low turnouts.
“We’ve been meeting with community leaders, churches and politicians trying to get the word out,” said Ron Beesley, incident commander at the Gateway vaccination site.
Beesley said 300 people are canvassing going door-to-door getting people to register for the shot.
“We hope outreach moves the needle in the near future,” said Beesley. “We see a shift in our demographic, a positive movement on that part. But we are still seeing there is a lot of misinformation out there.”
Since March 3, the five state and federal sites in Jacksonville have administered about 60% of the doses available between them, on average, each day.