Maryland health officials turn to churches to bridge vaccine equity gap, hold clinics – CBS

BALTIMORE (WJZ) – Local health departments are experimenting with new ways to reach people who are getting vaccinated at lower rates.

In some cases, this means using a trusted source, such as a place of worship, to encourage people who may be reluctant to take a chance.

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One of those sites is Mount Olive Freewill’s first Baptist church in Linthicum Heights.

The church is predominantly African American, and Bishop Oscar Brown said it was child’s play for him to get the vaccines straight to the site of the church.

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“Not everyone is a computer expert on how to get over the system, so once we became the middle person for that situation, the response was overwhelming,” Bishop Brown said.

Bishop Brown is a survivor of COVID-19. He wanted to remove the barriers that have made it difficult for people to find a vaccine.

“I think part of the hesitation was the frustration of the system. A number of elders said they continued the site and they had a hard time navigating through the system, ”Bishop Brown said.

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This was a partnership with the Anne Arundel County Health Department, specifically to reach people of color.

In the few months that vaccines were available, people of color quickly fell behind.

According to the data from the state health department, more than 650,000 whites have already received the first dose in Maryland.

Less than a third of that number, just over 194,000, represents blacks. The numbers are even smaller for Asian Americans and people in the Latinx community.

With these troubling statistics in mind, Baltimore County launched a campaign just this week to reassure residents that vaccines are safe.

“All three of these vaccines have been shown to prevent or greatly reduce the severe effects of the virus,” said Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, the Baltimore County health officer, said.

The site he First Mount Olive Freewill Baptist Church isn’t just for members. If you wish to register, please call the church office at 410-728-4383.

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For the latest information on the coronavirus, visit the Maryland Department of Health website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on the Maryland coronavirus here.