Hospitals, churches partner for West Philly COVID-19 vaccine clinic to help vulnerable

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Penn Medicine, Mercy Catholic Medical Center, and church leaders in West Philadelphia partnered for a vaccine clinic Saturday, administering 500 first doses of the Moderna vaccine to the community.

"It was very urgent that we got the vaccine, and we hope that many more get it," said Charles Lane from West Philadelphia.

He and his wife Ruby say they are relieved as they know the devastation the virus can bring.

"I had two brothers and a nephew pass from COVID," Charles Lane said.

The couple got vaccinated at the Church of Christian Compassion on 61st Street and Cedar Avenue.

"Most of all, I'm excited that the seniors here share today that they'll be able to be reconnected with their children and grandchildren," said Pastor W. Lonnie Herndon, who was one of 21 church leaders that partnered with the hospital.

Church leadership helped to identify the most vulnerable people in their congregations and helped them make appointments.

"Partnering with the faith leaders who are trusted members of their community and leaders in their community is a good way to get the word out and build that trust. That's necessary to make people feel comfortable getting the vaccine," said Chris Cullom, the president of Mercy Catholic Medical Center.

Philadelphia data says African-Americans have the highest infection, hospitalization, and death rates in the city but only account for about 18% of vaccinations.

"White colleagues were scheduling their vaccine at a much higher rate than their black colleagues, so it was quite dramatic," said Phil Okala, the COO of the University of Pennsylvania's Health Systems.

Hospital leaders hope clinics like this will help close the gap.

"I hope more people will be involved," said Ruby Lane. "Let's stop this virus because it's out of control."

Penn Medicine and Mercy Medical Center have six vaccination clinics like this one planned for the West Philadelphia community. The next will be in two weeks.
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