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Health department, Black clergy team up to vaccinate members of Lincoln's minority community
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Health department, Black clergy team up to vaccinate members of Lincoln's minority community

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Governor Pete Ricketts wants to see data from the Biden administration on vaccine distribution to Nebraska.

A vaccine clinic on Wednesday focused specifically on getting vaccines into the arms of Lincoln’s residents of color.

During the three-hour clinic at Mount Zion Baptist Church, 275 people were to receive their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

The clinic offered an opportunity for Black residents of Lincoln, and members of other minority communities, to get the vaccine, communities which have been especially affected by the pandemic, the Rev. Tremaine Combs said.

“This is an opportunity for us to deal with some of the effects of the fact that COVID-19 has hit minority populations across the United States at disproportionate numbers,” Mount Zion's pastor said. “We're trying our best to provide an opportunity — access for minority populations in the city of Lincoln to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Combs said the clinic was the result of collaboration between Lincoln’s Black clergy and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and stemmed from a virtual town hall held in February aimed at addressing questions from the Black community about the vaccine.

“This is not the work of one person, this is not the work of one group of people, this is the work of the community,” he said.

Health Department Director Pat Lopez said she was thankful for the help of Black church leaders in making the clinic possible.

“This is very important to us," she said, "part of what we as public health officials feel is critical."

To date, white residents of Lancaster County have received 90.5% of the vaccine doses administered, while comprising 80.7% of the county's population, Health Department records show.

Nonwhite residents, however, have disproportionally come down with COVID-19, accounting for 29% of the county's confirmed cases.

Combs emphasized that Wednesday's clinic at the northeast Lincoln church was not organized to try to force the vaccine onto people, but instead to make it more easily available to those who want to receive it.

“Our job is not to force anybody's hand, but to engage in advocacy and access,” he said. “When you give access, people have the right to say no to it, the right to reject it, and we have to be OK with that decision.”

However, Combs said most people he talked to responded enthusiastically to getting the vaccine, which he said signaled a change in the Black community’s trust of the medical system.

“I think that this shows that there is some degree of turnaround that's taking place, that our community is starting to trust not just the science but also our public health officials,” he said.

The success of the clinic provides hope for further building trust between the local Black community and the Health Department, Combs said.

“We hope that that conversation that we have begun and that we are having with public health officials in our city and county will continue to move forward, and will continue to blossom and grow for the benefit of all people in our community,” he said.

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Reach the writer at or 402-473-7241.


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Luna Stephens is a journalism student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is originally from Lawrence, Kansas and is passionate about the transformative power of journalism.

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