Black churches boost Minnesota's vaccine rollout in communities of color
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Black churches in the Twin Cities are playing a big role in ensuring people of color get access to COVID-19 vaccines in Minnesota.
Saturday, a vaccine clinic was underway in Minneapolis at Kingdom Life Church. The church was contacted earlier this month by Hennepin County to host a vaccine clinic. While spots didn't fill up at first, by the time the clinic got underway, they were pretty much booked.
"I ran over there, I was like, yeah, let’s get it done," said Ty Pringles, who got his shot Saturday.
Pringles had no reservations about rolling up his sleeve. The father and grandfather consider this first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine the key to the future.
"We have an opportunity to get back to life," he said.
Others took a little more coaxing to come.
"I was really apprehensive; I got up a few times last night to say OK, God, am I really doing the right thing," said Lei Simmons, who got her vaccine Saturday.
Unease around the vaccine isn’t something new, especially in communities of color where there’s been historical trauma of medical mistreatment.
"There’s a lot of hesitancy not trusting the system, I’ll say that," said Dr. Nerita Hughes with Kingdom of Life Church. "We already know there are health inequities and so you keep adding in all these different things and that’s going to cause people to say, I’ll wait, you get it and let me know."
Dr. Hughes says her church was contacted in early March by Hennepin County to hold a vaccine clinic alongside Hennepin Healthcare. They gauged interest from their members and found that interest quickly growing.
"Monday I had about 30-ish appointments, and by Thursday I had over 100," said Dr. Hughes.
The symbolism of a church that serves the BIPOC community holding a COVID-19 vaccine clinic isn't lost on those at the church on Saturday.
"Churches traditionally have been a place of comfort for our community to be OK with what’s going on in the world," said Pringles.
While everyone’s path to this particular vaccine clinic is different, they’re all leaving with a little more joy and immunity.
"Last year I was terrified. Today I’m feeling relieved so that in of itself is a good thing," said Simmons.
The church vaccinated about 150 people on Saturday. While church leaders aren’t sure if they’ll be able to host another clinic, they know their services could be needed moving forward as Minnesota opens up availability for the vaccine.