Hampton Roads faith leaders continue to push COVID-19 vaccine in Black communities

COVID-19 Vaccine

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY)– Members of the faith-based community in Hampton Roads met virtually Tuesday morning with a member of the Biden administration about their continued efforts to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Rev. Derrick Harkins is director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for HUD. Harkins said the group’s messaging moving forward is that urgency trumps hesitancy.

“You are not doing anybody any favors by, at this point, being hesitant. In fact, the damage continues to increase upon our community by those who are not vaccinated,” he said.

Vaccine hesitancy remains an issue in the Black community. The Virginia Department of Health reports 48% of Black adults have received at least one dose, compared to 54% of whites and 87% of Native Americans.

“It’s still important to be mindful of the causes and the reasons for hesitancy that some people harbor. It is far more important for people to hear now about the urgency of this situation,” Harkins said.

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The situation Harkins refers to is a rising number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

Gaylene Kanoyton, who oversees Hampton Roads’ Get Out The Vaccine effort said convincing people to get the vaccine is a battle. At a recent community event with 500 in attendance, she convinced just 15 to take the shot.

“We know that public housing and in section 8, those are where our greatest hesitancies are,” she said.

She asked Harkins what HUD is doing to help.

“I can wear my HUD nameplate all you want and try to be impactful there and that’s only going to meet with moderate success,” he said.

Harkins said partnering with local leaders and influencers is more effective.

Kanoyton is already doing that. She’s promoting an event on Wednesday with a popular local DJ. She continues to look for any and every local sporting event or outing to bring the vaccine.

That event with DJ Izzy will take place from noon to 6 p.m. at Lakewood Park in Norfolk.

See flyers below for additional community events where you can get the vaccine.

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