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Governor encourages Flint community in vaccination efforts

Featured photo: Sherelle Bell-Brown, emergency preparedness health educator for the Genesee County Health Department, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Written by Tanya Terry

Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently visited Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, on Saginaw Street, in Flint.
Dr. Daniel Moore, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church said Whitmer coming to Shiloh showed the governor’s support for the vaccine being in the African American community.

“We all know the disparities,” he said. “We know how coronavirus has affected the community. So, for her to come here-she could have went anywhere-but for her to come here particularly-showed that she is supporting what we’re trying to do to get our community vaccinated.”

Moore said the church was trying to figure out how to get more good information about the vaccine out to younger people.

Vanessa Hurd of Job Corps-Flint gets vaccinated at Shiloh.

“Younger people are big on social media, but if you get on social media there is a lot of misinformation” he said.

To Moore, the goal is to be “louder than that.”

Moore acknowledged everyone still needed to make their own decisions, but said he would like them to be able to do so with a foundation of good information.

Mayor Sheldon Neeley, who was part of a meeting with the governor there, told the Flint Courier News, why he felt it was so important Whitmer stop at Shiloh.

While at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, Governor Gretchen Whitmer greeted and talked to many Flint community members. Among them, were Mayor Sheldon Neeley, Pastor Daniel Moore, Genesee Health Department staff and volunteers.

“The governor really expressed the importance of having the vaccination sites accessible to people inside the city of Flint, and here at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church we actually were doing testing right at the beginning of this COVID experience,” Neeley said. “Now we’re doing vaccinations at the same site.”

According to Neeley, Whitmer expressed her concern making sure people all around the city were getting access to the vaccination. Neeley said her concerns were addressed.

“She wanted to make a first-hand visit to see how it was being implemented here,” Neeley said. “She left very satisfied that people were getting the help and the service that they need at this location in the middle of the city of Flint.”

Whitmer said the state has always known they would have their hands full to make sure they educate the public and answer their questions.

“I think there are a lot of people that are thinking about getting vaccinated, but have some questions-and we want to answer those because this is really a miracle of modern medicine that we have these safe, effective vaccines that are now accessible to just about everyone in all communities,” Whitmer said. “(And) we want to encourage people to do that because that’s the best way to keep your family safe, and it’s the best way to make sure that we can reengage our economy to full status.”

Not everyone in the Flint community has access to a car, but Whitmer explained why places like Shiloh were so important to the community.

“I think this is a testament to why it’s so important that community leaders partner,” she said.

She said these partnerships included the public health department working with the church.

“This is a way we can make it easier for people to access vaccines. I know that now there are even more opportunities because you can just walk in now and get a vaccine.”

Whitmer pointed out Michiganders no longer have to go online and make appointments.

“There’s a vaccination clinic near you, here in Genesee County. You’re going to be able to walk in and go get vaccinated on that day. (And) you get vaccinated once, you get your second shot-and then two weeks later, you’ve got full immunity (and) stay out of the hospital (and) keep yourself safe.”

Whitmer reiterated Biden’s goal of getting the nation closer to normal by July 4, Independence Day.

In Genesee County, there has most recently been a higher COVID case rate in residents over age 40.

Whitmer said both of her children have been vaccinated. Her 16-year-old has asthma. So, Whitmer wanted to make sure she got vaccinated as quickly as she was eligible.

“She’s had the Pfizer vaccine-two shots.”

Whitmer said on April 22 that she and her older daughter had received their first shot a couple weeks ago. They will get their second one the week of April 26, according to Whitmer.

She said her and her family are considering having an outdoor dinner with others who have been vaccinated.

“We’ve got to get our young people vaccinated. That’s where we’re seeing a lot of spread.”

Whitmer pointed out that although young people may not always have outcomes as severe as many older adults do, there is a possibility they could always have compromised breathing if they get COVID.

“If you want to go back to full enjoyment of things like big proms, football games, or going off to college or off to a new job-This is a crucial way to be successful in doing that. Getting the vaccine is an easy thing to do. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and it gives you peace of mind that you’re not going to expose anybody else to COVID.”

Whitmer closed the recent press conference at Shiloh with talking about why children ages 2-4 are now required to wear masks in public.

“(Well) we know that younger people can get COVID. We are seeing younger people showing up in hospitals. We know that mask compliance is actually strongest among some of the younger people.”

Whitmer expressed as the state is seeing more cases of children getting COVID, they decided to expand the mask mandate to younger children who are capable of wearing masks and who could have long-haul complications if they get COVID.

In addition to offering a community COVID-19 vaccination clinic, Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church has been one of the foundational churches throughout the Flint Water Crisis and throughout COVID-19 testing, as well.

Four hundred to 600 vaccines are given at Shiloh on average, each week since February 10, according to Pamela Hackert, MD MPH with the Genesee County Health Department.

As of April 23, Michigan had administered 6,166,654 vaccines. Also, 46.1% of Michiganders ages 16 and older had received at least one dose, with 32.3% percent of Michiganders ages 16 and older being fully vaccinated. The state’s goal is to equitably vaccinate at least 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and older as soon as possible. As part of these efforts, Michigan is working to administer 100,000 shots per day, partnering with organizations like Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.

The Pfizer vaccination is approved for use in those aged 16 or older. If you are 16 or 17, you must attend a clinic with Pfizer vaccine. The Moderna vaccine is currently only available to those 18 and up, according to Hackert.

To receive the most up to date information on the number of Michigan residents who have received a vaccine, as well as get information on where to get the vaccine, visit gchd.us.

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