Pastor Mack
Winston-Salem Union Baptist Church senior pastor, Bishop Sir Walter Mack Jr.

The Bible says Jesus used a salve made from mud to cure a blind man, notes Winston-Salem Union Baptist Church senior pastor, Bishop Sir Walter Mack Jr. “We believe this vaccine is the modern-day step to help people get where they need to be. You can pray all day long, but there are some things you have to do for yourself.”

To that end, Novant Health is partnering with the faith community to help our most vulnerable neighbors embrace the COVID-19 vaccine with vaccine clinics and online forums to answer questions around the vaccine and address public concerns head-on.

These clinics will rotate each weekend between Winston-Salem and Charlotte. Those interested must sign up with the church in advance to get the vaccine. Walk-ins will not be taken. These clinics are meant for church members and the neighboring community. Those receiving the first vaccine at a clinic will register there for the second one. These clinics are for those currently eligible under N.C. Department of Health and Human Services guidelines.

Mistrust of medical care among minority communities is a long-held reality. A poll last summer by Kaiser Family Foundation and ESPN’s “The Undefeated” found that 70% of African Americans believe that people seeking medical care are treated unfairly based on race or ethnicity. An NAACP survey of 1,050 adult African Americans conducted last September found that only 14% trusted that the vaccine would be safe. This skepticism comes amid the reality of COVID-19 affecting minority communities disproportionately.

The forums and clinics directly address the doubt, said Porsche Jones, a member of Novant Health’s community engagement team in Winston-Salem. “We want to be in the place that people have questions,” she said, “where people can talk about the science of the vaccine.”

Jones said Novant Health team members first met with several pastors and community leaders on Martin Luther King. Jr. Day to introduce this effort. This gathering was organized by Dr. Pam Oliver, a physician and executive vice president of Novant Health and president of Novant Health Physician Network.

Then came the questions, nearly all focused on medical issues. Dr. John Card and Dr. Jaleema Speaks were on the call to answer each one. Should I get the vaccine if I have an autoimmune issue? The answer was yes. Will a physician be there when I get my vaccine at the church? Yes again. On it went.

Two days later (Jan. 23) at Union Baptist, senior pastor Mack greeted members of his church and community as they came to church for the vaccine. “It was unbelievable,” he said. “Every appointment was filled. A steady flow. A great, great, great Saturday.”

If there was any angst among those getting the vaccine, it seemed to fade. “You’re talking about people coming to a church,” pastor Mack said. “It gave people a sense of security and trust.”

In all that day, 180 people rolled up their sleeve to get the shot. Among them was their pastor.

Caption, top photo: The Rev. Joseph D. Wade receives his vaccine at Union Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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