Pastor: Houses of worship should be used as COVID vaccination sites

Communities of color in New Jersey say that they are optimistic about President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine plan.
Pastor Rev. Melvin Wilson, of St. Matthew AME Church in Orange, just received his vaccine dose on Thursday. He says he is using that as a message to members of his community to trust the Biden administration and to stay positive. He says that they have been positive since the inauguration.
But Wilson says that now is the time to see if Biden will come through on his promises.
“We have to wait and see,” he says. “Plans are ambitious and needed and necessary, but at least we have a plan…But let’s see if he can carry it out.”
Wilson notes that communities of color are naturally apprehensive towards the quickly made COVID vaccine because of a long-standing history of its members being what he describes as “Guinea pigs” for vaccines in the past. He says that he has one major critique of political officials who aren’t around under-served communities.
“I don’t know that even now they really understand the significance and power and placement of faith-based institutions in communities,” Wilson says.
Wilson says that funding for vaccination sites should not come to where the people are, but should start where the people are – houses of worship – because of their accessibility and trust among people of color.
Essex County, for example, has a vaccination site in Livingston. But Wilson says that it is not as accessible as the county’s many churches.
“If people don’t have transportation, seniors don’t have opportunities, you need to deal with trusted intuitions, which are faith-based institutions. It’s us that bear the brunt and the cost of standing up these vaccination centers,” he says.
Wilson says in a one-question survey he asked his church community if they would get vaccinated if the church became a site. He says more than 80% of participants said that they would. He says that this is a sign that churches and the administration are trusted.