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Vaccinating Black Californians Through Faith Communities

Highlights

an older African American man wearing a medical mask

Systemic inequities and barriers mean that Black Californians have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and are among the least vaccinated groups in the state. Together Toward Health grantee the San Francisco African American Faith-Based Coalition hosted pop-up vaccination clinics at local churches, successfully vaccinating more than 700 African American community members.

700+ African American community members vaccinated

Throughout the pandemic, Black Californians have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and that trend is continuing as they are among the least vaccinated groups in the state. Due to historical systemic racism in and past and ongoing health injustices, many in the Black community face barriers to vaccination or have questions about the vaccine. While Black people make up 5.8% of the state’s total population, by May 4, 2021 only 3.7% of Californians who had received at least one dose of the vaccine were Black.

In response, Together Toward Health grantees initiated efforts to engage the Black community, prioritizing the use of trusted messengers to create greater confidence in the vaccine. For example, in the spring of 2021, the San Francisco African American Faith-Based Coalition (SFAAFBC) hosted six highly successful pop-up vaccination clinics at local churches and vaccinated more than 700 community members.

Dr. Jonathan Butler, executive director of SFAAFBC and pastor at Third Baptist Church
If we really want to achieve health equity, particularly in the Black community, we certainly need to collaborate and include the institution that has always been the foundation of a community. Prior to COVID, the Black church has been the institution that people come to in times of crisis and need. So when the time does come up, like a pandemic, people just generally gravitate to the church. Dr. Jonathan butler, executive director of SFAAFBC and pastor at Third Baptist Church

The key to their success was the intentional implementation of strategies to increase comfort levels around vaccination within their community. The SFAAFBC cultivated positive, community-friendly atmospheres at all their pop-ups, with music and dancing, food, and friends and neighbors to chat with. All shots were administered by people of color, and youth outreach coordinators helped turn out younger community members by putting out the word on social media.

See the SFAAFBC video “The Road to Vaccination” below.

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