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Ohio pastor urges people of color to get their COVID-19 shots

A vaccine clinic was held at The Word Church on Saturday.

WARRENSVILLE HEIGHTS, Ohio — A local pastor is urging his church to get vaccinated and appealing to those who are still on the fence.

Dr. R.A. Vernon is the senior pastor of The Word Church in Warrensville Heights, where on Saturday, they partnered with the Cuyahoga County Board of Health to host a free COVID-19 vaccine distribution clinic.

People in 1A and 1B groups could preregister and hundreds were vaccinated between 2:30 and 6:30 p.m.

The included Dr. Vernon himself, who repeated, it is safe.

“When God sends health, don’t deny it,” he said. “As an African American in America, we’ve been let down in so many ways. But this pandemic is not prejudiced. This vaccine needs to go into the arms of everyone--red, yellow, black, and white.”

He hoped his example would assure the black community, particularly those who are still reluctant to take the vaccine due to distrust based on historical health disparities.

Hospitals struggle with that too.

“We have individuals who are leery because of history of experimentation on the African American community, are leery of getting the vaccine,” said Dr. Akram Boutros, MetroHealth President and CEO.

Ohio is among 12 states that have tracked vaccinations by race. A recent analysis found that in each of those states, black Americans were significantly underrepresented.

This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House Coronavirus Task Force addressed one of the reasons.

“We’ve got to respect that they’re hesitant but then go in a step-by-step way to try and explain why is that you’re hesitant?” he said. “Do you believe it was done too quickly?”

Dr. Fauci went on to explain the speed with which the vaccine was approved was “not a reflection of cutting corners,” rather “A reflection of the application of exquisite advances in the science of vaccine platform technology.” 

Leaders at The Word Church hope their actions speak this weekend.

“I think it’s important for black and brown people of the community to see people like them actually take the vaccine,” Deacon Carla Thomas said. “I believe in God, but I also believe in science. I think it’s a great thing to be done.”

The church plans to continue the clinic every month until everyone has been vaccinated. Experts believe it will not be until the end of the summer that every adult American who wants to be vaccinated can be.

More COVID-19 vaccine coverage:

Editor's Note: The below story aired on January 29, 2021