Faith leaders partner with St. Joseph’s/Candler to build community trust in COVID-19 vaccine

Faith leaders partner with St. Joseph’s/Candler to build community trust in COVID-19 vaccine

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s a new initiative to serve those who are often underrepresented.

Faith leaders, healthcare agencies and even government officials are joining together to vaccinate those 65 and older. It’s the first partnership of it’s kind.

“Acute care which is what St. Joseph’s/Candler is in and public health which deals with the general population have to be integrated, they have to be. They can’t operate in separate spheres and this is serving as a school room on how to do that and it’s just great getting different demographics in the room.”,” said Paul Hinchey, CEO of St. Joseph’s/Candler Health System.

Policy makers, preachers and healthcare leaders here in savannah are working together to build trust in the COVID-19 vaccine among under served populations.

“Families have lost a lot of loved ones and so this was an opportunity to be proactive,” said State Rep. Carl Gilliard, District 162.

Hinchey says they have vaccinated 70 percent of their employees, but initially there was hesitancy because of a lack of information. That opened his eyes to what was going on in the public so with Representative Gilliard’s help they partnered with the faith community to learn how they can serve those with fears.

“I think there’s two things we have to address number one there is a trust factor in the African American community and it’s historical and it’s also factual so we cannot run away from the fact that there has been an issue in our community in trusting the healthcare system, but yet we’re coming together to say that we believe this is best for all people involved. The healthcare system can work, the faith community can work and the governmental entities can work so we can take care of our people,” said Rev. Dr. Da’Henri Thurmond, Pastor of St. Paul’s CME Church.

Together they not only came up with a way to use local churches as vaccine clinic sites, but also to provide vital information from a trusted source.

“We want to raise the debate that when the doses become available they’re not worth a hill of beans unless you start the educational effort way up front,” said Hinchey.

Faith leaders say joining in this partnership was important to them and they don’t take their role lightly.

“I heard one time that trust is gained in drips and it’s lost in buckets and so it’s important for us to utilize the trust we’ve gained over years and years of work to help improve the lives of our people and it’s messaging. The message has to go out from people that are trusted in the community and so I don’t take that role lightly,” said Rev. Dr. Thurmond.

The groups first clinic will be Wednesday and they will travel to other target areas in the coming weeks with help from the coastal health district. They believe the foundation they’re building will be an example.

“I’m really excited that this is the first phase of those that are 65 and older, but this will be a model hopefully for the state and the nation that the medical community along with faith based community got together and took the initiative you know to get people vaccinated,” said Rep. Gilliard.

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