GETS REAL: Local pastors, former Jacksonville Mayor work to get COVID-19 vaccine sites in minority communities

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and local faith leaders say they’re ready to work with federal leadership to bring the COVID-19 vaccine to minority communities.

In a press conference, held Wednesday morning, at the department of health, they discussed their proposal.

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Action News Jax Courtney Cole breaks down their plan to open these sites and what they need before they can open to residents.

“I got the first one, I’m waiting on the second one now,” said James Ford.

Ford is one of the seniors who’s been fortunate enough to be able to get his COVID-19 vaccine.

“Although I still wear my mask, and keep my distance,” Ford said assuredly.

He told Cole he wishes there were COVID-19 vaccine sites in communities of color.

“Like the northside, especially the northside!” Ford said enthusiastically.

Local Pastor R.L. Gundy and former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, along with the Northeast Education and Engagement Taskforce for COVID-19, are working to do that.

“We thank the mayor for what he’s done. We thank the governor for what he’s done. But it has not been enough. And therefore, in order to make sure minorities get the shots, we came up with our own equitable plan around the state of Florida to address this issue,” said Gundy, who is also the regional director of the taskforce.

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Brown, also the Co-chair of the task force said they have support from state lawmakers and the President Isaiah Rumlin of the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP. " On our task force, we have Congressman Al Lawson, Congresswoman Val Demings, and Congressman Frederica Wilson. So we’re working with our congressional delegation to make sure we do this right.”

Initially, the taskforce would like to set-up more than 80 vaccination sites in minority communities.

Locally, there are seven church being proposed as potential COVID-19 vaccine sites. The 5 churches in Jacksonville include: Emanuel Life Center, Solid Rock Baptist Church, Mount Olive Primitive Baptist Church, Dayspring Baptist Church, and First Timothy Baptist Church.

First Baptist of Fernandina in Fernandina Beach and Mount Tabor First Baptist Church are also on the list.

According to the latest data form the Florida Department of Health:

Just under 10,000 Black people have been vaccinated in Duval County.

That accounts for about 12% of the county’s vaccines.

To put that number into perspective for you, 31% of Duval County is Black.

Ford thinks there needs to be more of an effort to educate communities of color about the vaccine, too.

Brown explained they will be taking every avenue to get the word out once more vaccines become available.

He said it’s not lost on him that a lot of folks who want to get vaccinated and need the information don’t listen to the radio, don’t watch TV, don’t’ deal with social media. Brown said in their plan, they’re thinking of the people who don’t even have internet service – especially in the rural areas.

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“It’s going to be grassroots. We’re going to be doing door-to-door, that’s part of the plan, right? That’s why we’re going to have a grassroots campaign, going to door-to-door, knocking on doors, going to that seniors, getting their information. It’s that basic.”

Gundy and Brown plan to release more information to neighbors once they receive it from State and Federal leadership.

“This is all about saving lives. The endgame is saving lives,” said Brown.