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Tampa church distributes COVID-19 vaccine to 500 seniors thanks to statewide pilot program

Statewide program announced by Gov. DeSantis Sunday
Posted at 5:02 PM, Jan 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-10 18:09:00-05

TAMPA, Fla. — St. John progressive Missionary Baptist Church was busy Sunday and not just because of church service.

About 500 people of color, over the age of 65, went to the church to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“It was easy,” church member Ruth Fleming said. “It went smoothly and there was nothing to the shot. I’m glad I got it.”

RELATED: DeSantis announces new vaccination sites opening for seniors at predominately African-American churches

She was nervous about it at first, but she said she was determined to get the shot no matter what.

“It’s crucial, and with this virus, I advise everyone to please get the shot,” she said. “Especial people like me, with underlining conditions.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, Black people are three times more likely to get the virus than white people.

“People of color face a double challenge,” said Dr. Douglas Holt.

RELATED: COVID-19 Vaccine: Where people 65 and older can get vaccinated in the Tampa Bay area

Holt is the Director of the Hillsborough County Health Department. He says one of the challenges facing African Americans is a social disparity because most Black people are essential workers, work out in the communities and many don’t have the choice to work from home as much as other groups.

“The other part,” he said. “They’re more vulnerable to more severe infections because they have underlining conditions.”

He said that’s why vaccination events, like the one at St. John Progressive Missionary Baptist Church, are crucial.

It’s part of a pilot program that came out of Governor Ron DeSantis’ request to use places of worship in underserved communities to distribute the vaccine. This makes it easier for people in those neighborhoods.

“Because this has been successful, we will be looking at other churches throughout our community,” said Mayor Castor.

The governor does plan to expand the program statewide.