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Bloomington Church To Hold Vaccine Clinic For Black, Brown Populations

Man rolling up sleeve for a vaccination
Jacquelyn Martin
In this Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, photo Peter Thomas, 58, of Washington, receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at Howard University, in Washington.

A Bloomington church is hosting a COVID vaccination clinic specifically for Black and brown populations in Bloomington-Normal.The McLean County Health Department (MCHD) gave 200 doses for the clinic that will be held Friday at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church.

Rev. Brigitte Black
Credit courtesy
Rev. Brigitte Black

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 3.2% of vaccines in McLean County have gone to Black residents. The county’s Black population is nearly three times that at 8.4%.

Arlene Hosea, health chair of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP, said access is a major reason for the disparity.

“We wanted to address the fact that we need to figure out a way to get those vaccines to those who are disproportionately being left out,” Hosea said.

The clinic is essentially invitation only. The NAACP and other groups, including the African American Ministerial Alliance of Bloomington-Normal and Western Avenue Community Center, have been running a grassroots campaign to find 200 vaccine- eligible people from those underrepresented populations to come to the clinic.

Brigitte Black, pastor of Wayman African Methodist Episcopal Church of Bloomington and member of the ministerial alliance, said organizers have been calling people who might otherwise not be able to get a vaccine.

“Let’s not leave it up to the internet and sign-up technology,” Black said. “That’s not going to be the best way to reach our community.”

Organizers said they expect to fill all the slots with vaccine-eligible people. That will include health care workers, other essential employees and people 65 and older.

Black said recent town halls regarding vaccine hesitation and efficacy likely helped put more people at ease and she said it also helped that they were being called by people they were more likely to know and trust.

Black said many in her west Bloomington congregation were never notified about upcoming vaccine clinics, even those who have internet access.

The targeted vaccine clinic comes at a time when many vaccine-eligible people have been trying for weeks to get an appointment, and the county has limited first doses because of a vaccine shortage.

Hosea said it's more important to address historical disparities in the health care system.

“For us to just stand back and say there’s really nothing we can do about it because we may offend somebody, to be able to level the playing field, then I don’t know if we are being responsible,” Hosea said.

She said the NAACP and other groups plan to hold additional vaccine clinics as more doses become available.

The state of Illinois has expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to include those with underlying health conditions, but even pharmacies that have said they plan to offer the vaccine to more of this Phase 1B population already are booked for days or weeks.

The McLean County Health Department has said it won’t expand eligibility at its clinics until the vaccine is more widely available.

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