A ‘football-proof’ vaccination strategy at a Norfolk church

COVID-19 Vaccine

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — From Friday Night Flights to the Mid-Eastern Athletic and the Big South conferences, local football played a role in scheduling a vaccination clinic at First Baptist Church Berkley. That’s in the Lake Taylor High School attendance zone where the Titans are 1-3 for the district.

Church pastor William D. Tyree recently came up with a “football-proof” vaccination strategy.

“We wanted to move from the weekend clinics because with schools being back in place, Friday night is typically for football, and Saturdays the local colleges — the HBCUs — you have homecomings. [Because of these factors] trying to recruit volunteers as well as serve the needs of the population [has been challenging] so we figured on a Thursday night from 4 to 7 [p.m.],” said Tyree.

“There was an opportunity for those who get off work and for the retired. They have the flexibility and there was still daylight for those who don’t want to drive at night,” said Tyree who has worked closely with state officials since before the vaccine was available to the masses.

The football-proof strategy was a winning strategy.

Thursday night, there was a steady stream of willing arms as the church handed out one first-time vaccination and 71 booster shots for qualifying patients.

Dr. Anna Peoples, founder of Peoples Pharmacy on historic Church Street in Norfolk, was on hand for the Thursday evening clinic. It’s one of the dozens of clinics she has co-hosted for the Black community.

‘Those people [those getting shots] are being very proactive in taking care of the health of themselves, their family, and our country,” said Peoples.

Jimmie Mills, who uses a walking cane was one of the first patients in line.

“I didn’t have anything to lose. I’m 74 years old. I thank the Lord and can walk around with a stick and I’m blessed and the shots were doing me a lot of good. I know I’m protected with God but I feel relaxed now,” said Mills as he rolled up his sleeve.

President Joe Biden is trying to drive down the number of unvaccinated Americans, estimated at 68 million, by mandating vaccines for the military, defense contractors, and others. Peoples has inoculated the hesitant and the defiant.

“They adamantly don’t want to get the vaccine, any of the vaccines. People are feeling like they are being forced to get it done, so they feel J&J is their way out,” said Peoples, referring to the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Under new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pharmacists can mix and match Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson booster vaccines for qualifying patients.

For Peoples, the turnout for the inaugural “football-proof” clinics was something to cheer about. First Baptist Church will hold another clinic next Thursday evening and nearby Second Calvary Baptist Church on Norfolk’s Corprew Avenue will host clinics every Thursday evening through Nov. 18.

For Peoples, the football-proof clinics are something to cheer about.

“To those folks who are actually coming in to get the boosters, we say ‘hooray’ because my experience has been with the delta variant, people are getting sicker and they are dying quicker if they get the infection — and these are unvaccinated people.” Peoples said.

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