MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Both Shelby County and the City of Memphis are working to move forward after the state stripped the health department of their vaccine distribution duties, giving responsibility to the city.
Local officials say the goal to rebuild trust within the community. Additionally, community leaders say they can help with the process.
With everything going on, there’s a lot of concern when it comes to regaining the public’s trust in the local government in regard to vaccine distribution. Community leaders tell me they believe the best way to do it is to allow the community to be more involved in the process.
“Churches are ready to go. They’re prepped. Their spaces are ready,” Pastor Kia Moore, of Church at the Well, said.
Inside the Cane Creek Missionary Baptist Church’s Family Center in South Memphis, vaccines were given out to those who were eligible.
“We haven’t had any hiccups. Every 15 minutes we’ve vaccinated 20 people. We were able to reach 500 people yesterday and 500 people today,” Moore said.
Pastor Kia Moore with Church at the Well proposed to the Shelby County Health Department that churches in underserved communities be utilized as mobile vaccination sites.
She says this was after she noticed a gap between African Americans who were infected with the virus compared to how many were getting the shot.
“I realized that anxiety and fear may contribute to that disparity. But that the ultimate reason for that disparity was access to the vaccine.”
Since the state stripped the health department of its ability to distribute vaccines, the city of Memphis provided the doses and oversaw the site. This event comes as county Mayor Lee Harris says he’s working to rebuild trust within the community after the state announced a plethora of issues with how the county handled the vaccines.
“I do bare responsibility as one of the leaders in this community, and I’m going to have to work hard to rebuild public trust,” Mayor Lee Harris said.
But Reverend Leonard Dawson with Cane Creek says local leaders can start working on that trust by continuing to utilize churches and other faith-based organizations willing to help.
“Because the church is involved, that increases their trust. So, we would be able to reach folks who not be treated,” Dawson said.
Moore says she hasn’t been notified when or if the city will continue the partnership the churches had with the health department.
“We think that the city, the health department and all parties involved will see that this is something that this is effective, that this is something that people want, and this is something that people need,” Moore said.
Moore says up to 15 churches were pre-approved by the health department to host vaccine sites such as this. She says they are ready when needed.