As public health officials work to immunize the population, inequities in the rates of vaccination in communities of color continue to reflect disparities. To address these disproportions, health officials are establishing clinics and sites within the actual communities where disparities have persisted.
The hope is that the relationship to the community will encourage more participation as the community is educated about COVID-19 testing and vaccination by the community.
Reverend Donald Smith, pastor of Holy Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church, recently announced the expansion of the church’s COVID-19 testing program. The church will now also provide free vaccinations effective Saturday, May 1, for a “one-stop-shop” prevention program.
Currently the church provides COVID-19 testing from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at 1614 W. 59th Street. The church has been using this former Dunkin Donut building to administer the COVID-19 test, but now it will also provide vaccinations.
The pastor’s idea of ‘one-stop-shop’ means a person doesn’t have to go to one place for the test and then another for the vaccination, which has been the case for many people. “We like to think of ourselves as being a ‘one-stop-shop’ to get the COVID-19 test, as well as the shot,” said Smith.
The church also wants to insure people receive accurate information about COVID-19. Pastor Smith said, “We want to educate people because some have either had little or no education about COVID-19.”
The pastor shared concerns people have about taking the vaccines before or after being tested.
“A COVID-19 test isn’t a requirement to get a vaccine. But, if you’re sick or feeling under the weather you should absolutely reschedule your appointment and come back once you’re feeling better. Vaccine clinics are set up to maintain social distancing, but if you’re feeling bad, you shouldn’t risk exposing anyone. (If you’re sick, you should make sure you stay home from work and limit your exposure to others as much as possible.)
“It’s also worth mentioning this: The vaccine won’t cause you to test positive for COVID-19 either. If you test positive for COVID-19 after being vaccinated, it’s because you have actually contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus.” – Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director of infection control and prevention at the University of Chicago Medicine.
Education about testing is critical as the population continues to be vaccinated.
One of the reasons a person should be tested according to the CDC is because you have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 or were potentially exposed to the virus, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection. In this case, the CDC also recommends following the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional pending test result.
It is possible to have symptoms that are similar to the early signs of COVID-19, like allergies, the common cold, etc., which is why a person might be feeling sick or under the weather. In this case, a healthcare provider may ask a person to return when they feel better to minimize others being exposed by their presence in the clinic.
Education about this virus is critical, Smith said, because “people don’t know that just because they have taken the vaccines doesn’t mean they are immune, because you can have a breakthrough.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weekly data tracker, “Some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may still get sick because no vaccine is 100 percent effective.”
Last week, the CDC released data on the number of breakthrough infections of people who, even though they were vaccinated, still tested positive for COVID-19 more than 14 days after getting their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the CDC, as of last week, there were fewer than 6,000 “breakthrough” infections reported, which represents less than one percent of people who have been fully vaccinated.
The CDC report stated that of these, about 30 percent had no symptoms at all.
“Two recent CDC reports show that COVID-19 vaccines help protect people who are vaccinated from getting COVID-19 and may reduce severity of illness among people who get vaccinated but still get COVID-19,” the report stated.
That is why Smith is expanding his church’s outreach, to have more people get their vaccines because, “it will save your life, protect others and reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.”
Smith’s church initiative has provided COVID-19 testing to more than 1,000 people and is hoping to serve even more.
On Sunday, May 2, Smith will take his mobile unit and a portable tent and park outside of churches to make it more convenient for those who have yet to be tested or vaccinated.
“We are looking to come back to the Morgan Park area as well as to service companies wanting their employees to be tested,” Smith stated.
He is also hiring nurses to administer the vaccinations. “We love the community, and we want everyone to be tested and educated about this virus, and we want people to be comfortable getting the vaccine.”
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), there have been a total of 1,323,170 COVID-19 cases, 21,836 deaths and 22,318,791 total tests performed in Illinois.
So far, 30,845 people in Englewood (zip code 60621) have been tested and 2,249 cases according to the IDPH.
The only requirement to receive the vaccine is that you bring an ID.