Vaccines Outreach, Get the Jab
By Dianne Anderson
It’s no secret the Black community has been a little shy about testing or vaccines – for good reason – while others set an example to show that the horrific Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments of the past is not today.
To prove their point, church leaders are publicly taking the jab.
“I’ve watched pastors that were praying while they were taking the shot because they said ‘I know they need to see me doing this so they’ll have the confidence to take it themselves,” said Bishop Kelvin Simmons, pastor at Immanuel Praise Fellowship in Rancho Cucamonga.
Because they did that, he said more people are getting vaccinated. Black churches are rolling out the next wave of services, but he said many have provided education and testing since June.
Today, some in the community have already received their first shot, and on their way to getting their booster, and all is well.
In a recent alliance, through the African American Community Empowerment Council and the vendor Colors, IPF is one of 35 Black churches statewide participating in community testing popups.
“There are congregations that said yes to be part of this effort because it is part of our plan to help our community during this season of COVID,” said Bishop Simmons, also the president of the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches.
In the coming week, he said they will be opening testing sites. They had been reaching up to 200 a day in a testing effort with the county, and he expects they will reach many more through this next round of outreach.
Testing or getting the vaccine is not difficult. It’s a drive-through event at the church with an appointment, or they walk up to the site.
“I’ve done the testing several times, twice at my church, and twice publicly. Each time it was negative,” he said. “There will be a link to click on to register and come in, or you can do it standing in line, or come up for the paperwork.”
The community has been ravaged by COVID-19, but he said Black churches have gained strength to increase education, testing and vaccinations.
“What people don’t see is that African American churches were rallying their people to not only volunteer for testing, but also vaccinations,” he said. “We have so many of our people ill or passed away. The Black church decided individually and collectively that we can’t just sit and wait for somebody to come and take care of us.”
So far, millions of vaccine doses have come down nationwide, and Black people are not exactly at the front of the line. The Center for Disease Control reports that whites have received most of the doses at 64%, compared to 8.8% Hispanic, and 6.6% Black.
In Moreno Valley, Pastor Karen Sykes, wife of Bishop Kirk Sykes, is also participating in drive-through testing sites. She applauded AACEC for the training, and the medical component with testing provided by the vendor Colors.
Testing is seamless and quick at Crossword Christian Church on Wednesdays open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The community registers through a link on their website to sign up in advance. Those who are not pre-registered are also welcome, the staff has tablets to input information.
Staff will help individuals do their own swab test as they drive through. They drop their sample in a container on the way out, and the lab picks up the swabs to process tests.
As vaccines become available, she said it does not eliminate the need for testing, especially for people of color who have not had adequate access to services.
Her church is ready for the next phase now.
“We’re definitely putting our church name in the hat as far as being a church vaccination site. Last Friday the 19th we were actually a vaccination site. We collaborated with the county of Riverside Public Health office,” she said.
Every other Friday they host vaccinations at their church gymnasium with tables and chairs spaced out. Their next vaccination is March 5.
“As far as our health is concerned, we have to do our research and take ownership. Ask the right questions, pray about it,” she said. “We really want the word to get out and we want to make sure people have access.”
Pastor Gerald Agee, statewide director of the African American Community Empowerment Council outreach effort, said the organization is tasked with establishing test sites throughout the state of California for African Americans.
The effort began in January working with testing vendor Colors, which conducts all of testing in the parking lot sites.
“The low-hanging fruit was being reached by counties and cities in their different venues, but the high fruit, the churches are being reached,” said Agee, pastor of Friendship Church in Oakland.
Last week, they rolled out in areas in San Bernardino, Riverside and Lancaster. The final group includes churches in San Diego. Testings have started in Alameda, San Franciso, Solano, Sacramento and Los Angeles county.
He said that re-education is an important part of the process, and churches are the trusted resource of information for the Black community.
Wealthy people are rushing to the front of the lines to get their shot, he said, and some not even waiting until they’re 65.
“It’s critical that we’re utilizing this effort to educate people about true information, information that we’re not afraid of,” he said. “People are dying, get tested and get the shot.”
To see the CDC race breakdown of Covid Vaccines Administered
For events, dates and times at Immanuel Praise Fellowship, see
For Crossword Christian Church, see
To learn more about vaccines:
For more information on the state’s vaccine distribution, see
To sign up when your turn comes up to get the vaccine, see