First Lady Dr. Jill Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci visited a Choose Healthy Life COVID-19 vaccination event held on Sunday, June 6 at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.
Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, senior pastor of the church and co-chair of Choose Healthy Life’s National Black Clergy Health Leadership Council, hosted the event and was joined by Choose Healthy Life founder Debra Fraser-Howze and United Way of New York City President & CEO Sheena Wright.
Choose Healthy Life is a Black church initiative that ensures churches receive the necessary resources, training, and support to address COVID-19 and other health disparities by making available health services to the community.
“We want everyone 12 and over to come get vaccinated, so we need to get the word out,” said Biden. “People in this community trust this church and they trust the people in the church… We need the faith community to reach out to their congregations so that they come forward and be vaccinated.”
Choose Healthy Life is supporting 50 Black churches across New York, Detroit, Atlanta, Newark and Washington D.C., to make COVID-19 testing and vaccinations available to underserved and hard-to-reach communities through United Way of New York City and participating United Ways across the country.
“Black faith leaders have always stepped up in our communities during times of crisis, and right now is no different,” said Butts. “Choose Healthy Life is where faith and science come together to make a difference in our community.
Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network is also a co-chair of the initiative and said there’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to the Black community being vaccinated from COVID-19. Data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that only 11% of vaccines administered in New York State have gone to Black residents.
“Distrust of the healthcare system runs deep in our communities and it is critical that trusted public figures like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Biden step up to raise confidence in the vaccine process,” Sharpton said.
Over the first 90 days after the launch, Choose Healthy Life reached and engaged over 600,000 individuals, held over 130 vaccination and testing events, and administered over 30,000 vaccines to residents in hard-to-reach communities. At the Abyssinian Baptist Church, vaccination clinics are held Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and over the past two months alone, 40 vaccination events were held and approximately 5,500 vaccines administered.
“This is a historic place that I’ve known since I was a child, being a New Yorker myself,” said Fauci. “We’re going to end this outbreak, we’re absolutely certain, and the vehicle to ending this is vaccination, and that’s what’s going on right here.”