At the Temple of Praise, a predominantly black church in southeast Washington, clergy, church volunteers, and local doctors and pharmacists have worked to vaccinate more than 4,000 people, many in the ward. The Church is still using up its weekly allotments of Moderna Shot, with lines snaking each week through the parking lot leading to portable booths used for vaccinations.
Church leaders were vaccinated from the pulpit that year, causing a surge in interest, said Bishop Glen A. Staples. But he and other clergymen said after Sunday service that month that Covid-19 was part of a larger public health crisis for those now receiving the vaccine.
"It's not just about getting the shot," he said. "It's about building trust in the system."
Dr. Jehan El-Bayoumi, a professor of medicine at George Washington University and founder of the Rodham Institute, a Washington health justice organization, has advised the Church and its community. She said this phase of the vaccination campaign required moving the "place of power" to places like the church where vaccine recipients would certainly be treated with patience and empathy for their health in general.
Dr. Stanford said that guests at their vaccination centers with otherwise little access to health care sometimes ask for help with medical issues unrelated to Covid-19.
Dr. El-Bayoumi, who passes Gigi, said simple tools – free Uber rides to a vaccination site or blood pressure cuffs donated to vaccine recipients – were enough to attract some of those who wanted to get a shot in Washington. The Temple of Praise serves tens of thousands of meals each week to community members, including those who come to get a vaccine.
"The federal government is catching up with what works," she said. "People trust their spiritual leaders more than doctors and government leaders."
Scenes like Washington and Philadelphia have played out across the country. In southwest Florida, Detroit, New Orleans, and Kansas City, teams have gone door-to-door to explain the vaccines and how to get them, or even give them at home.