As Covid Cases Surge, More Ozarks Churches Host Vaccination Clinics
When the pace of vaccinations against Covid-19 came to a near standstill this Spring, health officials turned their attention to partnerships for building trust in the vaccine. Here in the Ozarks, one of the most trusted places for many residents is a church. Many pastors are making the decision to host vaccine clinics as hospitalizations for Covid see record-breaking numbers.
Earlier this month, a group of more than 200 Christian pastors statewide signed off on a statement
urging residents to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The statement described the vaccine as “an easy way of living out Jesus’s command to 'love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Dr. Vaughn Weatherford with the National Heights Baptist Church in Springfield is among those who signed the statement urging vaccines.
“I think everyone just wants to continue to work with our community officials and leaders and find ways that we can keep everyone safe. I think everyone knew there would be challenges, that’s kind of the nature of a pandemic and so this is one more challenge. [There’s] nothing bigger than what God can take care of and so we’re confident in his authority and his control and just want to continue to do what we can to keep everybody safe and healthy.”
Here in the Ozarks, many churches—including the Evangelical megachurch James River Church—have teamed up with the Springfield Greene-County Health Department to administer free vaccine clinics for the general public.
Health department spokesman Aaron Schekorra says while religion isn’t often discussed in pandemic conversation, the two parties are coming together to accomplish the same goal.
“Many of the churches that we have worked with, some of them have reached out to us to set up vaccination opportunities for their congregation, for their neighborhood, and the public in general. Some are part of the Have Faith Initiative here in town that’s been working; a group of faith leaders that’s been working on Covid prevention and now on vaccinations and some we’ve reached out to. Our outreach team has called or emailed to see if they would be interested in setting those clinics up.”
Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield reports that about 90% of their congregants have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. They're also hosting vaccine clinics; the first one took place in April and the second was held in May. Rev. Emily Bowens-Marler said she didn’t receive any backlash from her church’s decision.
”So our congregation is one that’s really supportive of the mitigation strategies, which is why we have such a high vaccination rate. So they just would’ve been in favor of us having a vaccination clinic, there wasn’t any pushback. We actually had the second clinic come right after the announcement that the vaccine was approved for kids between the ages of 12-17, so we actually had several members that brought their kids to the clinic that we had to get their first shot.”
Churches that are interested in hosting a Covid vaccine clinic can reach the health department by calling (417) 874-1211.