Pastors Target Vaccines to Black Community in a Good Way
By Dianne Anderson
Gone are the days when the flu only killed around 20,000 Americans each year.
As COVID pushes 550,000 dead in the United States, the data show the benefit for whites, who were faster to get to the front of the line for the life-saving jab as it became available.
By contrast, Blacks and Latinos are still twice as likely to make up the death toll.
At last count, the Center for Disease Control reported that whites received most COVID-19 vaccinations with the first shots administered and now make up two-thirds of those doses at 66% compared to only 9% Latino and 8% Black.
Pastor Reginald Woods has sat on several medical panels, and said all agree to get the needle in the arm now. It also offers some protection against some variants coming down the pike deemed more dangerous and deadly.
“If you’re concerned about the side effects – the side effects are better than being dead, and too many of us have died. What’s the alternative?” he asks.
Compared to whites, Blacks are 1.9 times more likely to die from COVID, and Hispanics are 2.3 times more likely to die, according to the CDC.
Dr. Woods, also a member of the Inland Empire Concerned African American Churches, realizes the Black community has been hesitant. But he said that his and other churches are pushing to target the Black community – in a good way.
He has held several COVID-19 testing events, and one vaccine clinic on his campus. He supports and refers the community to other Black churches as they rotate vaccine clinics locally.
However, supplies are still limited. Because they can’t refreeze allocations, they try to quickly use up leftover shots. He tells his congregation to call or text that it’s available for whoever answers the call.
Through these past months, everyone is watching everyone else, like first responders, to see how their jab is working out. To date, about 80 million have received their first shot, and over 40 million have received both shots. The overwhelming majority have had few or no side effects.
“We have had plenty of time to watch the test groups and the millions of people that have had it thus far,” said Dr. Pastor Woods of Life Changing Ministries in San Bernardino.
Until recently, nobody could beat Brenda Dixon in her excuses for not getting the vaccine.
“I’m from the South, I remember Syphilis [Tuskegee Experiments] and what they did to Black people back then. I was waiting to see what would happen to other people,” she said.
Mrs. Dixon, 76, doesn’t take any prescription drugs, but she said a reaction from a pneumonia shot last year made her reluctant.
She was taking her husband to get the vaccine and stopped by Crossword Church where Bishop L. Kirk Sykes explained the process. She decided to try it. Her only reaction was a mild, sore arm.
“In my lifetime I’ve always had a strong immune system, I haven’t been plagued with the flu so I did a lot of praying, but I also knew that it [the vaccine] might be the best thing for me and my family”
Karen Sykes, associate pastor at Crossword Church, said that their popup vaccine clinics are drawing the community in Moreno Valley.
“We have a very positive response to it for those that have signed up, some have come in for their second doses,” she said.
She said the African American Community Empowerment Council, which provides the popup clinics and venue, is very supportive.
“They are really teaching us how seamless the process is,” she said.
In monitoring Facebook and other social media, she is happy to see the community is reporting what they’re experiencing. Some have had mild side effects, at worst a headache or a sore arm. Many have no issues.
“I think it’s an encouragement because when it’s people they know, and they are saying these things it gives them the information to get vaccinated. We’ve seen a positive response,” she said. “But we still have people say they’re not getting it, that it’s a government conspiracy.”
Starting April 1 the vaccine eligibility will be extended to those older than 50. By April 15, vaccine appointments will be available for ages over 16.
Miriam Salazar, special projects manager, and vaccine scheduling coordinator at Inland Behavioral Health Services, said they also are serving anyone over 16 years with underlying health conditions.
Essential workers, social workers, healthcare workers and teachers are welcome to make an appointment. The vaccine is free.
They receive a 100 dose allocation weekly from the county, and they also open up leftover vaccines for their IBHS patients at the end of the day.
The community can call in to make an appointment. She said they are personally reaching out to those who may have concerns. The clinic connects patients with the pharmacist or outreach worker, who will talk to them about their specific questions for clarification.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about the various vaccines,” she said. “Those who want the vaccine we’re bringing them in, but we’re also looking to clear up any of the myths so they can make an educated decision.”
For more information on free shots, email IBHS at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 909.708.8158
For more information and national race data on who is getting the most vaccinations, see
Demographic trends and tracking:
For Life Changing Ministries, see
For Crossword Christian Church, see
To sign up when your turn comes up to get the vaccine, see