At the Temple of Praise, a predominantly Black church in southeast Washington, D.C., clergy, church volunteers and local doctors and pharmacists have worked to vaccinate more than 4,000 people, many in the congregation. The church is still using up its weekly allotments of the Moderna shot, with lines snaking through the parking lot every week leading to portable booths used for vaccinations.
Church leaders were vaccinated from the pulpit this year, leading to a surge of interest, said Bishop Glen A. Staples. But he and other clergy members said after Sunday services this month that for those now getting the vaccine, Covid-19 was a component of a larger public health crisis.
“It’s not just getting the shot,” he said. “It’s about developing faith and trust in the system.”
Dr. Jehan El-Bayoumi, a professor of medicine at George Washington University and founder of the Rodham Institute, an organization working on health equity issues in Washington, has advised the church and its community. She said this phase of the vaccination campaign required a shift in the “locus of power” to sites like the church’s, where vaccine recipients were certain to be treated with patience and empathy about their health more generally.
Dr. Stanford said that guests to her vaccine sites with otherwise little access to health care sometimes ask for help with medical problems unrelated to Covid-19.
Dr. El-Bayoumi, who goes by Gigi, said simple tools of convenience — free Uber rides to a vaccine site or blood pressure cuffs donated to vaccine recipients — had been enough to draw in some of those looking to get a shot in Washington. The Temple of Praise serves tens of thousands of meals each week to community members, including to those who come to receive a vaccine.
“The federal government is playing catch-up to what works,” she said. “People trust their spiritual leaders more than doctors and government leaders.”
Scenes like those in Washington and Philadelphia have played out across the country, with a get-out-the-vote-like sweep. In southwestern Florida, Detroit, New Orleans and Kansas City, teams have gone door to door to explain the vaccines and how to get them, or even administered them in homes.