N.C., — AdventHealth Hendersonville Provides COVID-19 Vaccines to Members of Historic African American Church on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Jan. 18, 2021; HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. – AdventHealth Hendersonville is honored to have partnered with the Greater New Zion Baptist Church in Fletcher for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The clinic was set up to provide 30 vaccines to church members age 65 and older.
AdventHealth is the only faith-based, not-for-profit health system in Western North Carolina and is committed to reaching out to community partners, including churches, as it launches its public vaccine opportunities. Partnering with Greater New Zion worked well for this first effort because the health system had an extremely limited number of vaccines available.
AdventHealth Hendersonville Human Resource Business Partner, Sharon Campbell explains the goal of bringing this clinic to the church. “We’re here today because it was very important to us that we start getting the vaccine out to the community. The state has opened the tier up to 65 and over and we want to make sure that we’re getting it to the individuals in the community.”
Greater New Zion’s Bishop Lionel Smith shared, “It means the world to us, the church and our community. I understand and most of us understand the history of what has taken place within our community and within our people. And there are many that are reluctant to take the vaccine, so I am ecstatic to be the first one and set an example for my church and my community as well.”
The timing of this clinic carried a great significance, beyond access to the vaccine.
“What is so special about being here today and being with Greater New Zion Baptist Church is today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday holiday recognition,” said Campbell. “And to come into a church of color and to be able to provide this to the community – it is such a blessing. We’re honored to be a part of it. We’re glad to be able to help educate the community on the vaccine and the need to get it.”
Bishop Smith said, “I cannot utter the words. Because this is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s celebration of his birth. And Dr. King has done so much, sacrificed so much, including his life, for us, for the freedom of this country. Today is just another step forward in something else that is destroying our community and he would have been upfront, leading the parade for this program.”
Based on surveys, vaccine hesitancy is extremely high among communities of color. Bishop Smith shared that he was excited by the response of his members who, instead of pushing back, asked when it was going to happen.
Bishop Smith’s wife, Doreen Wilburn-Smith adds, “Actually, the conversations that I have heard and I have had, have had to do with African American people and what the health system has done to them in the past. And when I had the conversation with the representative from AdventHealth, he understood. He said, ‘We know that there is a lack of trust in the system.’ And I was very happy to hear that because it shows a level of empathy that you don’t always get.”
AdventHealth is working with the NC DHHS and county health departments to hold additional public-facing clinics. To find out when future clinics are scheduled and other locations for public vaccine clinics, please visit AdventHealthNC.com.