Black Church Group Offers Its Best Shot at Closing Vaccine Gap

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To reach the most vulnerable, leaders say vaccine sites have to set up in hard-hit neighborhoods and let churches spread the word.

As the nation passed 500,000 coronavirus deaths this week, government data revealed that the life expectancy for African American men dropped three years—triple the decline among Americans overall during the first half of 2020.

In an effort to help reach minority communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 but less likely to get the shot, a coalition of 150,000 churches recently announced its plan for vaccinating over 100 million black and Latino churchgoers.

The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), which represents historic black denominations and partners with Latino leaders, has been lobbying the federal government for a more comprehensive plan to address disparities in COVID-19 vaccine uptake. NBCI president Anthony Evans wants to see the government more deliberately use churches’ built-in trust and familiarity to make the vaccine more accessible for minority populations.

Evans said at a press conference at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Washington, DC, last week that he supports Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for who should become vaccinated first but worries that African Americans and Latinos who qualify because of their age or underlying medical conditions aren’t getting the vaccine.

A representative from Health and Human Services (HHS) has not responded for comment on the NBCI plan, though the CDC distribution plan intends to address health inequities and “remove unfair, unjust, and avoidable barriers to COVID-19 vaccination.”

While black churches across the country have already opened their doors to help states and hospitals distribute the vaccine, Evans’s large network could add 300 church-based vaccination sites in the hardest-hit …

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