Vaccine Rollout for Black Community in Richmond
At our June RPA Membership meeting we presented the Reimagining Public Safety campaign and hosted a forum where we asked panelists to share with us the main public safety issues facing their community and how RPA might build a reciprocal relationship with their organization. One speaker was Reverend Kamal Hassan, Pastor of Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church of Richmond. His community is about 99% Black and one of their urgent safety concerns included low Covid-19 vaccination rates. The following is an interview and report on what came next.
Diana: Set the stage for us regarding the low vaccination rates among our Black community.
Rev. Kamal: Martin Luther King, Jr said there are two Americas, one Black and one white. The pandemic has been lived out in starkly different ways; the pandemic is still hot in Black America—we have more illness, more hospitalizations, and more death of our people in Contra Costa County.
Diana: How did the vaccine rollout come about and were there other communities besides your church that got involved in this effort?
Rev. Kamal: We had two clinics, one in March and one in October. They were spearheaded by Sabrina Saunders, Rev. Dr. Henry Washington, and Rev. Dr. Clyde Oden of One Accord Movement in conjunctions with a consortium of Black churches throughout Contra Costa County.
Diana: How many people were vaccinated?
Rev. Kamal and others: For the first run, we offered the J&J vaccine for 225 people; for the second, 32 people, with all three vaccines available. Sabrina Saunders: There were about 12-15 church vaccine clinics in Richmond and Antioch to increase access and deal with hesitancy and medical mistrust in the African American Community. One Accord coordinated the vaccine rollouts. The data suggested it would be beneficial to join efforts between many churches and the county, so we worked with Gilbert Salinas of the Contra Costa County Health Department. Pastor Kamal can tell you in the early days of our efforts the relationship was not what it is now with the county so there is a lot to the story of those numbers and the success. We attribute the greatest success came from faith leaders who addressed the needs of their people.
Diana: What is the vaccination rate of the Black community in Richmond now?
Gilbert Salinas: Currently, the rates for partially vaccinated are 88.4% and fully vaccinated are 82.8%. This represents data on partially and fully vaccination rates for those persons 12 and older in Richmond.
Diana: How did you get the word out?
Rev. Kamal: We had billboards in areas where the rates were the lowest. We also had programs and ads on Gospel radio stations. We door-knocked and signed people up right at their homes.
Diana: What is your current focus?
Rev. Kamal: We’re trying to reach those people who are still skeptical.
Diana: How might RPA participate with either your community or One Accord?
Rev. Kamal: Big issues remain. We are under-resourced, there are fewer places to go for vaccines; we have less voice.
Diana: RPA did not have a chance to join in the vaccination rollout, but our readers will certainly be heartened to know of this success. We would still like to partner with your community to bring relief, especially during these difficult times. What about rent relief for your community? Is this a need that RPA members might help address?
Rev. Kamal: Yes, for sure. Phone banking and text banking would really assist us in addition to other ways of reaching out and helping our community apply for rental assistance.