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Community leaders encouraged by turnout of Charleston vaccination clinic targeting minority population

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Residents on the West Side of Charleston had a better opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in a community event setting on Wednesday and officials liked what they saw with the turnout.

A vaccine clinic put on by Fruth Pharmacy and hosted by Grace Bible Church at 600 Kanawha Boulevard went from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Around 800 people that were pre-registered received the Pfizer vaccine and scheduled an appointment to come back in three weeks for the needed second dose.

Lynne Fruth, President of Fruth Pharmacy told MetroNews that Fruth received large shipments of Pfizer on Friday from the federal program and wanted to target areas in the Kanawha Valley that have been running behind with vaccinations. She said this event targeted the minority population in Charleston and anyone eligible on the West Side.

Lynne Fruth

Fruth said there is becoming more trust in the vaccine among minority communities and these events help.

“Community leaders are pushing that message in communities such as the black community that had vaccine hesitancy. It helps to have these events at a place they trust with people they trust, with providers they trust,” she said.

Matthew J. Watts, Senior Pastor at Grace Bible Church agreed with Fruth. He told MetroNews that he is encouraged by the willingness of the West Side neighborhood to receive the vaccine.

“We’ve had no problems getting people to want to take the vaccine. There may be vaccine hesitancy. I think it may be more among younger people, we may find out. Right now, we’ve been able to fill any schedule any time when we work with a partner,” Watts said.

Pastor Matthew Watts

Watts said the phone lines to the church did not stop ringing once the event with Fruth was scheduled. He stated there were nearly 200 voicemails left over a weekend after the registration for Wednesday’s event was full.

He said even with the want to get the vaccine, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done in communities of color during the pandemic. According to Wednesday’s report by the DHHR, only 2.2% of vaccines administered in West Virginia have been to the African American community, 14,167. A total of 644,173 have been given a vaccine in the Mountain State.

Watts said as far as the virus itself, his community was not hit as hard as they thought they would be, but it doesn’t mean to give up on discipline.

“We certainly know we are not out of the woods yet but we are encouraged. We think events like this are encouraging to the community to see there is someone like Fruth Pharmacy that wants to make sure that people have access to the vaccine,” Watts said.

Watts said he would like to do more events such as Wednesday’s independent clinic to help individuals who have not been able to get appointments through the state’s Everbridge system. He admitted there are challenges on access to the vaccine among the African-American community in the state but stated it is “no one’s fault.”

The appointments for the event were scheduled with the help of the Hope Foundation and Family Care on the West Side. Workers from Fruth and those community organizations helped administer the shots.

Fruth said she hopes to connect again on the West Side because it brings more access to a process that has been difficult to obtain for many people.

“You’ll see a lot of folks are walking up to this clinic. That’s because they don’t have access to transportation. Having something in their community removes obstacles about them getting the vaccine,” she said.

The number for Grace Bible Church in Charleston is 304-343-4673.

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