Jacksonville pastor apologizes for confusion after seniors turned away from COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Action News Jax Gets Real: COVID-19 vaccines in underserved communities

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Two seniors who tried to get the COVID-19 vaccine at St. Matthew Baptist Church in Jacksonville, were turned away over the weekend.

Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole spoke to the church’s pastor. Pastor George Price explained they were giving out COVID-19 shots by appointment-only. He said the problem was that they didn’t tell people how to make that appointment.

Pastor Price said he sincerely apologizes for any confusion created in the community.

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Keith Dismuke, a Vietnam War veteran turning 66 years old on Wednesday, said he got up Sunday morning, and got ready to go get his COVID-19 vaccine at the church.

“I got up, ate my breakfast, put on my clothes, it was cold too, 33 degrees!” Dismuke exclaimed. “I got my chair out, it was just before 9 o’clock.”

Dismuke was told he either had to have an appointment or be a member of the church.

“I don’t know anything about going online. I said well, can I just sign something? And she said, ‘you see what the sign says? The sign says no appointments available,’” Dismuke said.

His sister, Cynthia West, tried to get vaccinated as well, only to be turned away.

“Well, they said, ‘they’re not going to wait on you at all, so you’re wasting your time,’” West told Action News Jax.

Pastor Price said he was just trying to follow instructions from the state. He told Cole he’s just feeling blessed to be able to distribute the vaccine in a predominantly Black community.

As for West and Dismuke, they said they’re a little disheartened but still have plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

“I want everyone to get one! Because I’ve had too many friends die of this stuff here,” Dismuke said.

Pastor Price told Cole that 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine were distributed on Sunday. As a reminder, for those who received their first vaccine shot at the church on Sunday, Jan 10, the second shot will be given at St. Matthew Baptist Church on Sunday, Feb. 7.

Cole reached out to the Department of Health of Duval County and the spokeswoman told her it was organized by the Regional Incident Management Team.

She has reached out to the Florida Department of Emergency Management and is waiting to hear back.