Virginia turns to clergy, community to increase vaccinations within communities of color

Posted at 8:23 PM, Mar 23, 2021

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — Government leaders say it’s going to take a community effort to help the most vulnerable communities get vaccinated.

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) is turning to the church and community leaders to bridge the gaps that make it more difficult for communities of color to get their shot.

“We need help with getting folks pre-registered — on the pre-registration list for our vaccination events,” said VDEM State Coordinator Curtis Brown.

Brown says pre-registration is still an issue they’re working to resolve through outreach.

The organization says it is focusing on the equitable distribution of the vaccine to Black and Latino people by including more churches as vaccination sites— a move some local pastors are in favor of.

“When they see their pastor's face; when they’re seeing nurses or vaccinators who they’re familiar with from their congregation and their community, it allows them to be more comfortable," said Pastor Tremayne Johnson, who is the President of the Coalition of Concerned Clergy 757.

VDEM says it is working to open a community vaccination center on the Peninsula within the next month similar to the one at the Portsmouth Sportsplex that recently opened, but Black faith leaders say transportation is one of the biggest issues to getting older residents pre-registered for the vaccine.

“Most of the vaccinations in the beginning were happening at big centers but not in the community, and so people don’t have access to transportation to get there or able to get to the big venue,” Johnson said.

For this reason, the department says it will look at adding a van route for vaccination transportation.

Encouraging residents in minority communities to get the vaccine continues to be a hurdle. VDEM says they’re working to solve that issue, too, and are encouraging pastors to talk to their congregations.

“We’ve procured a resource to hire community influencers and members to talk to their community to help them get registered, go door to door, go to maybe stores and help people register either by phone or online,” said Brown.

A private staffing company called Elite Business Strategies is hiring outreach staff to target and educate vulnerable communities in Virginia.

Pay ranges from $20-$35 an hour, and more than 70 full-time and part-time positions are available. People interested in applying can email

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