BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Massachusetts Black Clergy members received the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine on Friday, as part of an initiative from Whittier Street Health to build public trust in the vaccine among communities of color.
The Boston-based community health care center said one of it's missions is to "eliminate health disparities" for marginalized communities during the pandemic.
"We believe that as key influencers in the communities we serve, [faith leaders] play a critical role in the engagement of our patients and community residents in health education and services that will address the high rates of mortality and morbidity," the center said. "Our minority populations have been negatively impacted by many issues including the COVID-19 virus."
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health provided doses of the vaccine for the event, and the center will also be developing educational videos with faith-based leaders and community members that will be available for public access.
According to Frederica Williams, the President and CEO of Whittier Street Health, the center did it's own "due diligence" in assessing the shot before developing the campaign.
"We were excited, as people of color ourselves in leadership," Williams said. "We needed to feel comfortable with the science, and feel comfortable that this was truly a cure that would help the community....before we went to the community, [and] before we had our faith-based focus groups."
One of the clergymen who received the vaccine was Pastor Gerard Bell, who highlighted the misinformation that has been spread online about the shot.
"What we've learned and what we've seen over these past few months, is [that] regardless of race, creed, color, social/economic background, this virus kills," Bell said. "And I know that our community and others like to think that — to look at the conspiracy theories...but what we need to look at is the fact of the over 400,000 who have died...So we're here today, to lead the way."
As of Friday, Johns Hopkins University reports that 411,165 Americans have died from Covid-19. That includes over 13 thousand people in Massachusetts.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Stephen Wright, the Medical Director for Primary Care Services, said people need to "take that leap of faith" when it comes to trusting the science behind the Covid-19 vaccine.
"Because if we don't get vaccinated, what's the alternative?" he said. "The alternative is we're likely going to get Covid-19, and all that that implies."
Dr. Wright administered the shot on behalf of Whittier Street Health, along with Registered Nurse Melissa Leaston, who is also the Director of Nursing and Infection Control Officer.