UNC Pembroke mobile clinic aims to vaccinate American Indians

PEMBROKE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Kevin Melvin is an essential worker getting his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday at a mobile clinic at UNC Pembroke.

"If I can do it, so can everybody else," Melvin said.

The father of two is leading by example. But at first, he didn't trust the vaccine.

Now, he's feeling the responsibility to protect himself and his family after seeing COVID-19 ravage the American Indian community.

"We've lost a lot of elders. That knowledge is gone," said Melvin, who is from the Lumbee tribe. "You lose a lot of that history. You lose a lot of that culture. That's a big loss to the community."

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 11,223 American Indians have been infected with COVID-19.

Since the pandemic began, more than 126 have died.

American Indians have had the highest cases per 100,000 residents in the state, with 6,340 cases per 100,000 people, compared to 5,900 cases per 100,000 residents in White North Carolinians and 6,094 cases per 100,000 residents in Black North Carolinians.

"Robeson County has a large American Indian population, which is why it's important for us to be at this church today," said Jodi Phelps, chief communication and marketing officer at UNC Pembroke.

The university held its sixth vaccination clinic Thursday since launching two weeks ago thanks to state money and NCDHHS.

Phelps said roughly $1.4 million went toward two mobile units.

Nursing students are getting real-world experience helping rural, communities of color with limited access.

Thursday's clinic is in the parking lot of Prospect United Methodist Church where Pastor Sam Wynn said 95 percent of his congregation is American Indian.

"We've had people who have died," Wynn said.

"Homes, children, families, jobs we've been impacted by all of that," Wynn said. "This is one of the ways in which we hope it will help us move back toward normalcy."

UNC Pembroke will vaccinate 100 people each week. After the pandemic, they will hold on to these mobile units to continue their community outreach.

The next vaccination clinics are below:
  • March 19, St. Joseph Miracle Revival Center, 4657 Daniel McLeod Road. Red Springs, from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Appointments are available every 15 minutes. To register for your vaccine appointment, call Zenovera Leak at (910) 843-9093.

  • March 20, Fairmont First Baptist Church, 301 N. Main St., Fairmont from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Appointments available every 15 minutes. To register for your vaccine appointment, call Michelle Bethea at (910) 599-2317.

People can also call (910) 521-6322 or send an email to covidvaccine@uncp.edu
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.