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Columbus Urban League, New Salem Baptist Church Hold Clinics As Vaccination Disparities Persist

A phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Royal Victoria Hospital, in Belfast, Tuesday Dec. 8, 2020.
Liam McBurney
Pool via AP

COVID-19 vaccines are now open to all Ohio adults. In fact, supply is so readily available, many clinics are offering walk-in appointments to get the shot.

But racial disparities in COVID vaccinations persist. Less than a quarter of Black Ohioans have gotten a vaccine, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That’s compared to nearly 40% of white Ohioans.

Columbus Urban League and New Salem Baptist Church are trying to address that disparity with vaccine clinics this weekend.

Pastor Keith Troy said both access and trusted voices are crucial to addressing the vaccination disparity.

“You have to meet people where they are and also use people that have influence with those folks we’re trying to reach,” he said. “Our theme really has been, ‘If you don’t trust the science, trust a scientist,’ so we have many Black and Brown people who are scientists in our community that have been advocates for this.”

Health disparities have plagued Ohio from the start of the pandemic. Black people account for 14% of Ohio’s population but 18% of its hospitalizations. That has impacts on communities like the New Salem Baptist Church.

“It has hit us harder. Even in our own congregation we had a situation where we had a mother and a daughter both have COVID and end up doing both of those funerals together,” he said. “It hit our congregation very hard.”

This on top of a hard economic year, and one that saw many deaths of Black people at the hands of white police officers.

“It’s fair to say our tired is tired. I don’t know how much more folks can take. So you start to stress living day-by-day and winning day-by-day,” he said. “Collectively, I think our community has bore more than its load in the heat of the day.”

But Troy, and his congregation, keep looking forward.

“What happens with our community is this irrepressible belief that things are going to work out and there is hope,” he said. “If we look past what may be our daily concerns, and see what our young people and what our young adults are doing, there is a lot of hope in the community.”

The two clinics are free and open to the public and will run both Saturday and Sunday. The Columbus Urban League clinic at 788 Mount Vernon Avenue will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. New Salem Baptist Church's clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 1-6 p.m. on Sunday.