JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Seven sites in Florida, including one in Jacksonville, offered COVID-19 vaccinations on Sunday in partnership with places of worship, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced.
“We really believe making sure these vaccines are getting into all segments of communities is important and we think working with our houses of worship is one way that you can do that,” DeSantis said at a news conference Sunday morning in Lynn Haven. “We started doing one in Pensacola last Saturday. It was very successful.”
At 9 a.m. Sunday, St. Matthew Baptist Church in Jacksonville’s Moncrief neighborhood started administering 500 pre-selected doses of the vaccine to people 65 and older. Rovenia Brooks and her husband, Earl, received their first dose of the vaccine there and said they have appointments to receive their second dose in a few weeks.
“Our church — Mt. Sinai (Missionary Baptist Church), Pastor (R. L.) Gundy — they called us at home, asked did we want to take the shot,” Rovenia Brooks said, “At first, I was nervous, so I said no. Then the next day, Friday, I called him and I called back to the church and he said call (state Sen.) Audrey Gibson’s office and let the secretary take your name and put it on the roll for Mt. Sinai, so I did that.”
Donald Foy also explained to News4Jax how he got access to the shot.
“The appointment was made actually, a pastor friend, went through the process of him on the line and we got it in through Sen. Audrey Gibson’s office,” Foy said. “That went through the process, and I was able to get in and get it.”
In addition to Jacksonville and Lynn Haven, DeSantis said, the sites operating Sunday were in Tallahassee, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, St. Lucie and Tampa. He said there were 50 different houses of worship, many of them predominantly African American churches, that participated.
“This is a lot of teamwork,” he said. “It was the state providing resources. It was the city and the county working with all the churches to make it happen, and so they designated each church, certain amount of times to receive, and then the pastor’s would work to be able to bring some of the senior citizens for those particular times.”
The governor said the priority continues to be providing vaccinations for seniors.
“We’re putting seniors first,” DeSantis said. “We’re doing it in a variety of ways. You see some of these big hospital systems are now starting to crank out a lot of vaccinations. We appreciate that. You also look at some of the county health departments working in their communities to get seniors vaccinated. You look at some of the drive-through sites that the state’s supporting, as well as some of the locals all throughout the state of Florida. That is something that’s been very convenient. And then our partnership with Publix.”
As of Sunday, according to Florida Department of Health data, 558,326 people in Florida had been vaccinated, including 275,771 people age 65 and older.
Hopefully, DeSantis said, the state is scheduled to get about 250,000 additional shots of the first dose next week. He added that he’s asked if Florida could potentially get more.
News4Jax reached out to the Florida Department of Health to confirm who was in charge of booking the appointments at St. Matthew Baptist Church but had not received a response as of Sunday afternoon.