Effort to end Black reluctance to COVID-19 vaccine goes statewide

Zachary Faison, President & CEO of Edward Waters College
Rev. RB Holmes, Jr.
Congressman Al Lawson 

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

One of the most reliable ways that Black people have gotten information on pertinent issues has always been through their churches.

It hasn’t changed in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the virus that causes respiratory disease has drastically affected church attendance. In part, therein lays the challenge for convincing skeptics that the vaccine is safe enough to save lives.

Several studies have found that resistance against the vaccine is highest in Black communities. That’s partly because the virus has affected Blacks to the point that they are dying at higher rates than any other demographic.

 High profile figures throughout Florida have been appealing to Blacks in their cities to take the vaccine. However, a Statewide Coronavirus Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Task force is raising the stakes.

Democratic Congressman Al Lawson of Tallahassee is one of the influential figures named to the task force. He suspects that rapidly reaching the Black community would have been easier if the pandemic hadn’t taken a toll on churches.

“It certainly is a hindrance because throughout history all of the communications have always come through the churches because they have large congregations,” Lawson said. “For politicians and everyone else, we go where there is an audience and the same thing is true with the churches.

“But because churches have had to change the way they minister to their parishioners it’s important now that we call on leaders, not only from the ministerial community but leaders in the community where there are African American physicians, lawyers or different organizations to help get the message out.”

The makeup of the task force includes faith-based leaders from around the state, HBCU presidents,