The St. James Church of God in Christ in Arkansas City has partnered with Graves Drug, hoping to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to more people.
Vaccinations were offered at the church Tuesday.
Pastor Edward Watson said the church became involved when the vaccine first became available. At the time it was not readily available and the church wanted to help.
“We had the opportunity to work with Graves Drug to bring the vaccine to the community where people had been hit with COVID the hardest,” he said. “We’ve had people in our community become very sick or die from it.”
Watson said the church wanted people to be able to receive the vaccine in a place where they felt comfortable. The church is predominantly an African-American congregation, he said, and some of the members of that community find it difficult to trust the vaccine.
“You’ve read about the syphilis experiments and things that happened in the ’40s and ’50s,” Watson said, referring to a decades-long study of Black men who were misled and not treated properly at the Tuskegee Institute. “There is not a lot of trust when people are trying to put things into your body.”
Watson said that by making the vaccination available at the church, they hoped to overcome those fears and send a message that the vaccine was important and safe.
“I think for some people it has overcome some of the trust issues,” he said.
Watson said the church has offered the vaccine on four occasions. About 15 to 20 people have received the vaccination each time.
“Up to this point it has been mostly older people because that is what was open by the state,” he said. “It’s just now open, so you have a few younger people.”
He expects to see more of the younger people coming in to receive the vaccination in the future.
“A lot of people don’t know it is available to them,” he said.
Making the vaccinations available has become a mission outreach for the church. While a mission outreach is normally seen as offering medical care to third-world countries, he said, medical care is also needed here at home.
“That’s what we believe the Lord has called us to do,” he said. “We just want to make this possible and easier.”
Vaccinations at the church are open to anyone who wants to receive one. It usually depends on word-of-mouth rather than advertising to let people know when the vaccinations will be available.
“I don’t think that Graves would want us to get 200 people here,” he said with a laugh.