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Maryland Health Officials Turning To Churches To Close Vaccine Equity Gap, Hold Clinics

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Local health departments are trying out new methods to reach people who are getting vaccinated at lower rates.

In some cases, this means using a trusted source, like a place of worship to encourage people who may be hesitant to get a shot.

One of those sites is First Mount Olive Freewill Baptist Church in Linthicum Heights.

The church is pre-dominantly African American and Bishop Oscar Brown said it was a no-brainer for him to bring vaccines right to the site of the church.


"Everybody's not computer savvy as to how to get through the system, and so once we became the middle person for that situation, the response has been overwhelming," Bishop Brown said.

Bishop Brown is a COVID-19 survivor. He wanted to eliminate the barriers that have been making it hard for people to find a vaccine.

"I think a part of the hesitancy was the frustration of the system. A number of seniors said they went on the site and they had difficulty navigating through the system," Bishop Brown said.

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

In the few months that vaccines have been available, people of color have quickly fallen behind.

According to data from the state's health department, more than 650,000 White people have already gotten the first dose in Maryland.

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

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

"All three of these vaccines are proven to prevent or greatly reduce severe effects of the virus," Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Baltimore County's health officer, said.

The site at First Mount Olive Freewill Baptist Church is not just for members. If you'd like to sign up, call the church's office at 410-728-4383.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department's website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ's coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

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