TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – The Mississippi State Department of Health is encouraging more African Americans to get vaccinated against Covid 19. So far, only 15 percent of covid 19 vaccines have gone to black people, although they account for 42 percent of deaths. Key members of the Black community in Northeast Mississippi are hoping to change that trend.
Bishop Clarence Parks is pastor of the Temple of Compassion and Deliverance. He is also a well-respected leader in the African American community. Pastor Parks is encouraging members of that community to get the Covid 19 vaccination, but he says there are hurdles to overcome.
Pastor Parks knows about the impact of Covid 19, not only on his congregation but in his personal life. His mother passed away last April after contracting the virus. So when the vaccine was approved and became available, he began encouraging people to sign up.
“We pray for God to do something as Christians, and we pray for something for God to do something in a speedy way, He downloaded in the minds of people that went to school and studied science, they came up with a vaccine, some say it’s too quick, but you cannot put a time limit on God,” Bishop Parks said.
When Pastor Parks heard about the low percentage of African Americans getting the vaccine, he decided to bring other pastors and community leaders together for an informal discussion about what can be done to reverse that trend.
Pastor Jessie Gilmore says there are other factors that keep people from getting the vaccine.
“We are also concerned about those that cannot access the vaccine, we have been trying for three weeks to get senior citizens in our community to get the vaccine. After trying so long, guess what happened, everybody in the household, this is the real story, now has Covid,” Pastor Gilmore said.
Cecilia Griffin lost her mother to Covid 19 back in November. She says there are other obstacles people face when trying to schedule the vaccine. Griffin says it took her six hours to schedule vaccines online for herself, her husband, and a nephew. She also says those without reliable internet access face an even bigger barrier.
“We have people in the area that don’t have internet access, or don’t know how to access the internet to schedule the vaccine, so we need a faster system, needs to be accessible for everyone,” Griffin said.
During his State of the State address on Tuesday, Governor Tate Reeves said there are plans for more drive-through vaccination sites throughout the state. And as those plans progress, African American pastors and community leaders say they hope to have a voice in the process.
Pastor Parks says efforts to better educate the African American community about the benefits of taking the vaccine are also underway.