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Our faith leaders have an important role in helping us heal from the pandemic and increasing COVID-19 vaccinations.

Across Pierce County, faith groups of all kinds continue to  respond in love and compassion to the pandemic, particularly in communities hit hardest by COVID-19. They are often the ones on the frontlines of grief, economic instability, and the consequences of prolonged social isolation.

From foodbanks to rent-relief to questions about the vaccines, faith-based organizations are there for their congregations and their communities. They comfort the sick, check-in on the lonely, and allow people to quarantine safely by delivering food and medicine.

Pierce County faith leaders also play an important role to get everyone vaccinated. 

People may not listen to government officials or healthcare providers, but they will listen to their faith leaders. And let’s face it, we need more trusted voices countering misunderstandings and misinformation circulating about COVID-19 vaccines. 

The faith leaders we meet with are from different denominations and different faith traditions. They may even have different practices and beliefs, but they all have one thing in common: They care about their families, neighbors and their communities.

Right now, more than 40% of eligible Pierce County residents still need vaccine, which means people are still vulnerable to catching the virus and being hospitalized. 

And with more variants in the community, your risk of more severe infections is possible. The only way to prevent this spread is more fully vaccinated people. 

This is especially true for children under 12 and people with certain medical conditions who can’t receive vaccine. They are counting on all of us to get protected.

It’s why some faith leaders step up to host vaccine clinics while others share their personal stories on why they got vaccinated in church bulletins and social media. As faith leaders, they know the power of a personal story to change hearts and minds. 

One pastor told us he got his vaccine to protect his medically vulnerable child. These personal accounts may help others consider getting vaccinated, take steps to get a vaccine plan, or reach out to someone they trust to have a conversation about vaccination.

Start with the ears.

Closing Pierce County’s vaccine gap begins with listening to people’s questions and fears. Faith leaders know in order to be understood, it’s important first to understand the barriers that keep people from getting vaccine.

Different communities use different approaches, but what they all have in common is neighbor caring about neighbor.

Many people in Pierce County still  don’t know if they’re eligible for vaccine, or they don’t know if they should get a shot after they’ve had COVID-19. (They should!) For these reasons, we provide faith-based organizations with resources.

Some may have congregation members who can benefit from our mobile vaccination team; others may need assistance with transportation or translation. If they have challenges, we’ll likely have solutions.

Reliable information is the key to getting people to agree getting vaccine is the right thing to do for themselves and the people around them.

Faith leaders know when you put community first, every individual is served.

While COVID-19 cases are down in Pierce County, many people are still vulnerable to the virus, which means we as a community still have work to do.

More than 99% of the people who died from COVID-19 in May, in the U.S., were unvaccinated. Nearly every death is preventable.

It’s why we want to engage more faith-based leaders who live in Pierce County where vaccination rates are the lowest. There is a correlation between higher COVID-19 case rates and low vaccination uptake.

If you or someone you know is a faith leader, please consider joining the conversation. Contact me at Kmeyer@tpchd.org.

We meet weekly with local faith leaders to listen to their questions and concerns around the COVID-19 vaccine.

Faith leaders serve as critical partners in other areas of health. It  makes sense to call on them to help in the effort to get more Pierce County residents vaccinated.

The first item on our weekly agenda is to say “thank you.”

We can help.

Our staff can help answer your questions, address concerns and schedule vaccine appointments.  Find COVID-19 vaccine at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture or call us at (253) 649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week, except on holidays.