Pastor pushes for pop-up vaccination sites across Shelby County for underserved communities

Push to make vaccines accessible to black and brown communities

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - There’s a major push to fund and create pop-up vaccine sites for underserved communities across Shelby County.

Memphis City Councilman J.B. Smiley introduced a resolution Wednesday asking the City of Memphis to adopt and fund the “Black Church Mobile Site Program.”

The program was started by Memphis Pastor Kia Moore with The Church at the Well, after the change in leadership with the Shelby County Health Department.

“The mobile vaccination sites are really important for us in Memphis right now especially because of the disparities we’re seeing,” Moore said. “What we wanted to do with the mobile vaccine sites was to start at black churches where we know Black people trust and allow them to come into comfortable spaces where they’re familiar with to receive the vaccine.”

Their first weekend they served more than 800 people between two churches at the Anointed Temple of Praise in East Memphis and Cane Creek Missionary Baptist Church in Bunker Hill.

“It’s important to know the people in the room were people who were 75 and 76 and these are people who should have already been able to get the vaccine, but because of issues maybe with internet or their vehicles or just them not being able to use technology, they had been left out of a phase that they should have been included in,” Moore said.

Now, Memphis City Councilman J.B. Smiley wants to help continue these efforts.

He says 12 of the 13 city councilmembers signed on to the resolution requesting the Mayor continue and expand the program.

“I think the City and the City Council are well-positioned to make sure the COVID vaccine process going forward will be effective and efficient,” Smiley said.

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He said he would like to use a portion of the $1 million from the Council Emergency Relief Program that was initially allocated to the City of Memphis for unanticipated vaccine costs to go to the expansion of the mobile site.

Both Smiley and Moore said they hope to eventually expand the program to include not just black or brown communities, but all that are underserved.

“People need to know that the church cares, that we’re visible and that the church is not just working on Sundays but that we work 24/7 and that the church cares not just about your soul and your spirit, but about your body and how you’re being treated by the community,” Moore said.

Smiley said there will likely be several amendments to the resolution including an education component, voter registration and transportation with MATA.

The Council is expected to vote on the resolution on March 16th.

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