Faith leaders to address COVID-19 vaccine distribution among African American community

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Steps continue to be made in the region to help with COVID-19 vaccine distribution among the African American community.

The Faith Leaders Church Initiative has announced it is establishing the African American Health Care Clinician Workgroup. A news conference about the new plan is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 18.

People are invited to attend the news conference, but COVID-19 protocols will be followed. You are asked to sign up at 12:30 p.m. at Jacob’s Building at Chilhowee Park. The event will happen on the front steps. People are asked to wear mask and to socially-distance themselves from others.

According to a news release issued by the agency, the workgroup will participate in discussion and distribution of vaccines to the community, with a special emphasis on the African American community.

“It makes a difference, when someone that looks like you, are the ones that vaccinates you,” Juanita Cannon said in a statement to WATE 6 On Your Side.

According to the news release, Cannon is a local resident who received her vaccination at the Knox County Health Department. The tier distribution category, ages 75+, are currently being vaccinated in Knoxville-Knox County.

The following statement was also provided by the agency about the background of the workgroup.

The AA Health Care Clinician Workgroup consists of doctors, nurses, social workers, mental health workers and non-medical volunteers ready to be deployed when they are called upon to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. The following partners have joined the Workgroup, the Knoxville Branch of the NAACP, Chi Eta Phi Sorority – Black Nursing Sorority, and the East TN National Panhellenic Council (15 Black Greek Letter Organizations in East Tennessee).

“The key to getting the word out to the African American community is using trusted people that our community will listen to and believe in,” Vice-Mayor Gwen McKenzie said. “This is one of many strategies that the Faith Leaders and CONNECT Ministries/New Directions and their partners are using to push out the messages about vaccines and choice.”

Monday’s news conference will also be streamed on the Vice-Mayor’s Facebook account, which you can view HERE.

Vice-Mayor McKenzie said it has been great to see the community support for the project, and to be able to unveil the plan on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

RELATED STORY – LIST: Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in Knoxville

Surveys have shown that as the first COVID-19 vaccinations are being administered across the country, Black Americans remain among the groups that have the least confidence in the vaccine, according to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The Kaiser study found that 35% of Black Americans would probably or definitely not get the vaccine if it was determined to be safe by scientists and widely available for free.

“The fact that African Americans are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, results in more deaths in people of color and limited access to the vaccine is a problem. The Knoxville Branch of the NAACP is committed to be involved from an educational, access and a social justice standpoint. We want our people vaccinated; we want to “FIGHT” to “WIN” against this virus. That is why the Knoxville Branch has joined forces with the Faith Leaders”, said the newly elected Knoxville Branch of the NAACP President, Rev. Samuel Brown.

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