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'I Thank God': More California Churches To Offer Vaccines In Effort To Reach Underserved Communities

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - More Californians will soon be able to get their vaccine right at church as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide partnership with faith-based organizations across the state.

The effort aims to provide at least 25,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to pop-up clinics at places of worship in the hardest-hit areas of California.

Many still hesitate to get the vaccine, but one place they may feel the most comfort and trust is where they worship.

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood teamed up with UC Davis Health in turning the fellowship hall into a vaccine clinic. But Ella Williams didn't buy in to the shot right away. Like many others, she was skeptical of the vaccine.

"Because I don't like to take shots, and so I didn't want to do it," Williams told CBS13.

"Well this is a black and brown community and it is important because a lot of us are hesitant," said Kim Rhodes, vaccine clinic organizer with St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.

That's why the state launched a partnership with nearly 200 faith-based organizations, expanding its outreach and equity efforts.

"I think that we're really ramping that up now," said Sue Watson, director of the Together Toward Health Initiative.

The initiative formed during the pandemic and now funds outreach efforts in 300 organizations in underserved communities across the state. Nearly 80 of them are in Northern California.

"There's a real intention and push to make sure we are not leaving people behind in COVID," said Watson.

"We just want to make it available to them.  We want them to realize that it is safe to take," said Rhodes. "It is important that we are here in the community to make it easier for them so they can trust us to get vaccinated, so we can stop the spread."

Ella Williams considers it a divine vaccination. A clinic at her own church was enough to convince her to roll up her sleeve.

"Well they were having it here, so it was easy for me to come because this is my church. So I was happy to come and be a part of it," said Williams. "And now I'm cleared to go out and be with my sisters because they did it as well. I thank God for changing my mind."

The new faith-based outreach effort also focuses on Black, Asian and Latino Communities. The state is working with faith leaders to provide testimonials and webinars to build confidence in the vaccine in hard-to-reach communities.

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