UNC mobile vaccination clinic reaches underserved communities in Johnston County

KENLY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Jessie Thigpen can't remember when she left her house in Johnston County for anything other than going to the grocery store.

This week she added a stop at a Kenly church to get her COVID-19 vaccine.

"I've been trying to keep from getting it," she said.

Thigpen got the vaccine at the UNC Health's roving mobile vaccination clinic. This week, the vaccination event was held at the Temple of Praise on East Second Street in Kenly. Next week it will shift to the Praise Temple Apostolic Faith Church in Clayton.

"I think the community is following real well," said Pastor James Neal, who has led the Temple of Praise for more than 30 years.

He's a veteran and went to the Durham VA to get his shot too.

They've also held food pantries and giveaways during the pandemic but now Neal felt it was the church's duty to host the vaccine clinic.

"So far we are rolling out and we are encouraging everybody that can and will to schedule a time to take their vaccination," said Pastor Neal. "We've got to get through this together."

According to UNC Health, the goal of the mobile clinics is to reach the underserved African-American and LatinX communities.

In the three weeks, they've done these events and vaccinated more than 550 people.

"The significance is not in the number," said Jonathan Barrett, the operations lead at the event for UNC Health. "It's in the lives we've been able to change specifically for families who have not been able to gather together."

Barrett said churches are great places to have these clinics because the houses of worship have already gained the trust of people in the community.

"We treat people like people," Barrett said. "We understand that there are inequities in care. We show up and we try and be attentive."

Thigpen came to get her vaccine alongside her healthcare aide Nancy Moore.

Moore said it's been a challenge to keep Thigpen and her other patients safe going in and out of their homes during the pandemic.

"I just pray that when I leave that we'll be safe," she said.

Though the Friday Center in Chapel Hill was closed Thursday due to bad weather, UNC Health said those appointments were rescheduled for Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, they plan to administer 1,700 doses and most second doses. On Saturday they plan to do another 1,100.
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