Bethel A.M.E. Church is the latest on the New Haven Department of Health’s list of pop-up vaccination sites. The seventh clinic is specifically reaching the Black community where the church is often at the center of many people’s lives.
“We have to be the one to be that light on the hill, to be that beacon of hope,” said pastor Steven Cousin. He added that churches around the area have been a resource for the Black community to learn more about the vaccine.
“For the most part my members and the community are doing their research about the vaccination. They’re talking to the primary care physician to see if the vaccination is conducive for them, and then they’re making their own decision,” said Cousin.
He says the turnout Wednesday is proof that many do want the vaccine and improving access is the next step. All 80 appointments for the day were booked.
“A friend of mine texted me and said ‘Covel this is the place to go, they seem pretty organized.’ And so I called and he was right,” said Covel Rogers of New Haven.
He had no fears about the vaccine, he’s thinking about a bigger picture.
“Because of my age, I’m in my 70s, I have grandkids and if not for me for them.”
Word also spread to Mary Weir, who just became eligible in the 65 and up group.
“He just gave me a number and said ‘go to Bethel,’ and Bethel is just down the street so it’s just easier to go to Bethel,” said Weir.
Churches across the state are playing more of a role in vaccinations after the state Department of Health last week released the first racial breakdown of who has been vaccinated.
“The number of whites who had been vaccinated was about 187,000 and the number of African Americans was about 11,000,” said Dr. Robert Sanders, chair of the University of New Haven National Security Department.
Sanders says the Black church helps people establish trust in a historically safe space
“It can channel the things that need to be channeled to the people that need to see it, hear it, feel it, digest it and engage with it,” said Sanders.
In order to get the vaccination rates among Blacks higher across the state, he says churches and community groups will have to continue to work on access issues that meets the specific needs of each municipality.
“If you can’t walk to where you get your vaccine, you might not be able to get your vaccine,” said Sanders.
Cousin says he’s willing to do more, even possibly partnering with Yale New Haven Health.
“We’re more than willing, we’re actually willing to partner with anybody, to make sure that we can actually deliver and have the access for our members and our community to receive the vaccination.”