PORTLAND, Ore. — Doctors and nurses are pleading with people to get vaccinated if they can. Now faith leaders in Portland’s Black community are banding together to amplify that message.
Pastor Cliff Chappell of St. Johns All Nations Church of God in Christ is passionate about spreading the word of God. These days, his passion, extends to spreading the word about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We really want to get the message out to our constituency, our congregations, about the importance of being vaccinated,” said Chappell.
Pastor Cliff, as he likes to be called, said he and other faith leaders have seen too many families suffer or die from COVID-19. Just the other week, one person in his congregation died.
“I felt like it didn’t have to happen. She ended up getting infected and within two weeks, she was dead,” Chappell said.
Historically, the Black community has seen lower vaccination rates. Pastor Cliff said it’s fueled by a mistrust of the government and medical professionals. That mistrust is understandable given historical events, including the Tuskegee study that happened between 1932 and 1972.
“You know, where African Americans have been the subject of research, without their knowledge. And so what we're trying to do is to minimize that hesitancy, let people know that this is not a racial thing. It is not based on politics. It's not rate based on religion,” said Chappell.
He along with more than a dozen other faith leaders who are a part of the Coalition of African & African American Pastors decided to organize Soul2Soul, a drive-thru vaccination event this Saturday aimed at getting anyone, but especially the Black community, vaccinated.
Jessica Guernsey is the public health director for Multnomah County. She said there has been a gap when it comes to vaccination rates for the Black community and other communities of color.
According to state numbers, about 53% of the Black community in Oregon have been vaccinated or at least had their first shot. Guernsey said that percentage has been steadily increasing in recent weeks as neighbors and trusted friends talk to one another about the vaccine.
“That's why it's so important that community events with faith leaders are being sponsored all over the community,” said Guernsey.
“We know that vaccination is really our path out of this,” she added.
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“They [the community] trust us as pastors. They trust us as their leaders and if we encourage them, we believe that we will be able to raise the number of those who are unvaccinated to get vaccinated,” Chappell said.
The Soul2Soul vaccine drive-thru event is happening on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lloyd Center Regal Cinemas parking lot in Portland. There will be live entertainment and lots of prizes up for grabs.