Gregory Christopher is determined to get the community vaccinated for COVID-19. He has a detailed plan of action.
â€œI call it our â€˜All Out, Reach Out COVID-19 Action Plan,â€™â€ he said. â€œThat kind of speaks to the urgencyâ€”like this is a matter of life and death. This is a matter of having or maintaining a quality life.â€
The plan calls for volunteers to spread messaging online and on the ground. It centers on community outreach to help people get signed up for appointments and discuss issues or barriers they face. Thereâ€™s hope to bring vaccine into communities and make it easier for folks to get it.
Christopher, the pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church and president of Tacoma Ministerial Alliance, got his shot of Johnson and Johnson vaccine at a popup clinic at his church in Tacoma. Tacoma Ministerial Alliance hosted that event with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, and Christopher saw what it meant to many.
â€œI wanted the African-American community to see that one of the community churches strongly supports being vaccinated,â€ he said. â€œI thought that was critical.â€
He knows the vaccine is still a tough sell for some, especially in communities of color.
â€œThe United States doesnâ€™t have a real good track record for experimenting on people of color, especially without their permission,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s important to recognize and legitimize that. We canâ€™t act like that didnâ€™t happen. Yes, Tuskegee happened. But this is a whole lot different.â€
He said often people just want to talk things through, and his experiences can help others make decisions more comfortably.
â€œIf we donâ€™t know what weâ€™re talking about, why should they even listen to us?â€ he asked. â€œJust give them information and make it as easy as possible.â€
Christopher sees more incentive than ever for everyone to get their shots.
â€œThatâ€™s one of the pictures Iâ€™m trying to paint at Shiloh,â€ he said. â€œIf we can get the congregation as a whole to get vaccinated, at least we can have some normalcy in how we worship, which is very important to a lot of African-Americans. Worship services are critical to having a balanced life.â€
After being fully vaccinated, he continues to see the benefits daily.
â€œIâ€™m able to reach out to congregations that are having a crisis,â€ he said. â€œI feel comfortable going there knowing Iâ€™ve been vaccinated. One of the worst fears for me prior to taking the COVID-19 vaccine was that I might be asymptomatic and not know it and pass the disease on to somebody.â€
Christopher said heâ€™s seen how easily that can occur.
â€œOne family in my church, there were 10 of them and they wanted the grandparents to come to the grandsonâ€™s birthday party,â€ he said. â€œSix ended up catching COVID-19. I share that example without names just so people understand how important this is.â€
While the health risks are real, so are the benefits to fully vaccinated living.
â€œThe hope is getting back to a quality of life that we were accustomed to, and not only with our physical health, but being able to keep a roof over our heads,â€ Christopher said. â€œBeing able to get our children back in school.â€
He sees a return to pre-pandemic living in sight, and so necessary for all of us.
â€œAll those things play out in who we are as a whole person,â€ he said. â€œEverything rides from my perspective on getting everybody vaccinated.â€
People can register for a vaccination at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture or just drop in to any clinic. No appointment is necessary. Everyone 12 and older is eligible. If you need a ride to an appointment or canâ€™t easily leave your home, call the Health Department at 253-649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week.