Norfolk pastor on vaccine hesitancy: ‘People trust the church’

COVID-19 Vaccine

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The omicron coronavirus variant first documented in South Africa represents an evolutionary leap that poses more vexing questions about a virus that has killed more Americans than any other pandemic in recorded history.

Hours after President Joe Biden issued a warning about the unknowns in this ever-evolving virus, a historic church in Norfolk opened its doors for a free, no appointment needed, vaccination clinic.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

This was the fourth such clinic at First Baptist Church Campostella, located at 1510 Conoga St. in Norfolk. The pastor, the Rev. Dr. Tyrone Jackson, told 10 On Your Side Monday’s clinic is part of a monthslong effort launched by the Norfolk Pastors’ Coalition that has involved more than a half dozen churches and other facilities.

“When went from the [Norfolk] Scope, Booker T. [Washington High School], the STEM Academy [at Campostella], First Baptist Berkley, Second Calvary [Baptist Church] and Shiloh [Baptist Church]. We have been doing this since January,” said Jackson.

Jackson, who is also a funeral director in the Petersburg area, and other members of the Norfolk Pastors’ Coalition have been on the front lines from the beginning of the pandemic. They’re trying to encourage a population that is hesitant and medically underserved to roll up their sleeves for the life-saving coronavirus vaccine.

Regina Mobley: “How many funerals have you resided over that are COVID-19 related and how many people have you prayed over who have COVID-19?”

Rev. Jackson: “The number is unimaginable. I stopped counting in the beginning stages. I can’t even put a number on it.”

According to the Virginia Department of Health, since the pandemic began, more than 25,000 people in Norfolk have been infected, more than 1,300 have been hospitalized, and 358 people have died.

10 On Your Side has covered three of those cases, including the case of 17-year-old Schwanda Corprew who was the region’s first juvenile fatality case. Loved ones say Schwanda died in her home after a brief illness, only days before her scheduled vaccination.

Jackson offered his observations on how the pandemic has affected the underserved population of Norfolk.

“It’s been a mental stress, a mental strain on our Black community, not being afforded upfront answers [regarding the vaccine roll-out],” he said. “The reason we continue to do [church- based clinics] is people trust the church. People trust the church and it’s our job — it’s our mandate — to be out, not just behind closed doors in these four consecrated walls, to be out here in our community and continue to bring awareness from a church and from a church standpoint.”

For more information on the church-based vaccination program in Norfolk, call 757-545-6786.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

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