VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Some local ministers are raising the red flag about vaccine distribution in Virginia Beach.
They’re saying many Black residents in the resort city are missing out on the much-needed shots.
On Feb. 19, Pastor Luther Allen, who heads the First Lynnhaven Baptist Church, sent an email detailing a proposal to provide better outreach to the Black community in getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
He sent it to health officials, political leaders, and others. He says he didn’t get a response.
“What I was looking at was a lack of mobilization plan,” he said.
In the email, he wrote about a vaccination partnership getting set up. He proposes setting up seven larger churches as vaccine “super sites.” He hopes 7,000 people could be vaccinated.
He sent the email to several officials including Norfolk and Virginia Beach Health District Director Dr. Demetria Lindsay,
Lindsay did not respond on why she did not respond to the email, but late Friday afternoon sent a statement to 10 On Your Side:
“The Virginia Beach Department of Public Health, in collaboration with the City of Virginia Beach, is finalizing our outreach plan. This proposal will address and meet the needs of individuals to include members that are ages 65+ and ages 16-64 with chronic health conditions in minority communities (such as African American, Hispanic, and Filipino). This includes working with faith leadership and other partners. While we have already begun some outreach activities, our target goal for implementation of this plan is the beginning of March.”
Notably, the Virginia Beach response is behind another community outreach plan plan put forth by the City of Chesapeake.
Allen points to how Chesapeake Regional Healthcare partnered with 20 African American Churches to vaccinate 2,000 people Feb. 16 and 17.
“Look at that response. I know people in Chesapeake have been very successful… In Virginia Beach, we need more sites. We need dates, and more scheduled dates, and the dates should be mapped out,” he said.
He laid out the map to get better organization branching out into the Black community.
“Identify the sites, identify the schedule, give us numbers that we can tangibly connect to people, and be prepared for people to be there to administer the vaccine,” he said.
Allen and Pastor Melvin Cotton of New Genesis Baptist Church argue the branching out must go through the African American churches.
“The church, more so than any other institution in the Black community, is connected to the people. The church is engaged in wholistic salvation,” Allen added.
Cotton supports that and notes that through African American history, there is distrust.
“I call it post-traumatic slave syndrome… People are hesitant to put the vaccine in their bodies… When we as church leaders say it’s OK, they trust us and we’ve developed a trust,” he said.
Allen also added this: “There are people who are open to receive the vaccine, and are willing and ready to receive it. We have to change the narrative.”