Black Leaders Are Working To Build Vaccine Trust
Vaccination rates for African Americans in Northwest Florida do not come close to the number of Black people living there. That according to numbers from the Florida Department of Health.
About 2.5 million Floridians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to DOH. But Pensacola’s communities of color appear to lag behind.
“I think that we’ve made very, very good progress,” said Rev. Marcel Davis, head pastor of Adoration for a New Beginning in Brownsville.
“At first it was a slow start, but then as people got their vaccines and talked to their friends [and] relatives about the vaccine, people started locking on to it and wanted to get vaccinated,” he added.
More than 8,700 Black Escambia residents have received their shots; Latinos number just under 1,200, according to the state. Davis says one tactic they’ve been using is going door-to-door to gain trust face-to-face.
“We built teams; we’ve built what we call ‘lieutenants’ to get to know people that’s close to you, to assure them that you’ve been vaccinated, and to come on board,” said Davis. “It is a philosophy that Jesus left for us – to love they neighbor as thyself.”
The state of Florida began reaching out to minorities through churches in Pensacola, for older residents to get needles in arms. Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Pensacola Tuesday, speaking at Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church.
“We’ve done 71 faith-based events in 22 counties; it’s about 75,000 vaccinations just with our churches,” said DeSantis during a recent visit to Pensacola. “We’ve done churches, synagogues, and other groups. We’ve primarily focused on African-American churches – it’s a great way for outreach – and we’re going to continue to do that.”
“The governor asked for 500 vaccines to go to two different impoverished communities; he wanted to make sure that we got in the front of the line,” said Dr. Evon Horton, pastor of Brownsville Church. He added that the more people that have been inoculated, the more others have become open to getting their shots.
“They did one community in Jacksonville, and one of the governor’s staff with emergency management said, ‘we were up after [Hurricane] Sally at this church in Pensacola – and I think it was called Brownsville.’ So they put me on the call with them and talked about getting 500 doses [on] December 28.”
Until last week, only those 65 and older were eligible for the shots. The minimum age is now 50 and it’s expected to drop to 18 by the first of May. Therein, says Rev. Marcel Davis, lies the biggest challenge: selling the shots to the younger African-American community.
“They’re not trusting the process; they’re saying it was too soon and it was too quick,” Davis said. “But we also ran into that barrier with the 65 and older [crowd]. So it is my hope that the younger generation will do their research, will really see that we need to get vaccinated so we can get to this herd immunity.”
But whatever the age, the race, the ethnicity or socio-economic situation, Davis says the mantra is the same – “Don’t Wait, Vaccinate.”
“This is a war. And we must fight this with all due diligence to get people educated on what is taking place,” said Davis. “Don’t listen to some of the people who say, ‘Oh, it’s just another flu.’ No – this thing has been real deadly, and very detrimental to the African-American community.”
More than 1,200 people and counting have been vaccinated at the clinics in Brownsville. Add to that more than 700 by Community Health Northwest Florida. As those efforts continue, the next step being taken is providing the shots to residents in Century.