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Pastor Christopher’s plan? First, we get everyone eligible vaccinated for COVID-19. Then we get back to normal.

Rev. Gregory Christopher is determined to get the community vaccinated for COVID-19. He has a detailed plan of action.

“I call it our All Out, Reach Out COVID-19 Action Plan,” he said. “That kind of speaks to the urgency—like this is a matter of life and death. This is a matter of having or maintaining a quality life.”

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. There’s hope to bring vaccine into communities and make it easier for folks to get it.

Pastor Gregory Christopher

Christopher, the pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church and president of Tacoma Ministerial Alliance, got his shot of Johnson & Johnson vaccine in March at a popup clinic at his church in Tacoma. Tacoma Ministerial Alliance hosted that event with the Health Department and Christopher saw what it meant to many.

“I wanted the African-American community to see that one of the community churches strongly supports being vaccinated,” he said. “I thought that was critical.”

Trusting the messenger.

Christopher hadn’t planned to get his vaccination that day but ended up doing so and couldn’t be happier with the result. 

“I just had some minor side effects that went away in a day’s time,” he said. “I feel a whole lot less stressful about returning back to some type of normalcy in life.”

He knows the vaccine is still a tough sell for some, especially in communities of color.

“The United States doesn’t have a real good track record for experimenting on people of color, especially without their permission,” he said. “It’s important to recognize and legitimize that. We can’t act like that didn’t happen. Yes, Tuskegee happened. But this is a whole lot different.”

He also knows the recent pause to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine might add skepticism.

“When they put a pause on that,” he said, “the people that were so close to getting vaccinated, they set them back.”

But he has the experience of getting it himself, and that’s what he shares with others.

“If I’m one of the ground crew and I’m speaking to a person that really wants it but isn’t sure I can say, ‘Yes, I had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and only had minor side effects that were done the next day,’” he said. “Then I talk about how science states when you have any of these side effects that actually means the vaccine is working.”

He knows often people just want to talk things through, and his experiences can help others make decisions more comfortably.

“If we don’t know what we’re talking about, why should they even listen to us?” he asked. “Just give them information and make it as easy as possible.”

Vax up to open up.

With Pierce County moving to Phase 3 this week and new guidelines easing restrictions for fully vaccinated people, Christopher sees more incentive than ever for everyone to get their shots.

“That’s one of the pictures I’m trying to paint at Shiloh,” he said. “If 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.”

After being fully vaccinated for more than a month, he continues to see the benefits daily.

“I’m able to reach out to congregations that are having a crisis,” he said. “I feel comfortable going there knowing I’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.”

Christopher said he’s seen how easily that can occur.

“One family in my church, there were 10 of them and they wanted the grandparents to come to the grandson’s birthday party,” he said. “Six ended up catching COVID-19. I share that example without names just so people understand how important this is.”

While the health risks are real, so are the benefits to fully vaccinated living.

“The 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,” Christopher said. “Being able to get our children back in school.” 

He sees a return to pre-pandemic living in sight, and so necessary for all of us.

“All those things play out in who we are as a whole person,” he said. “Everything rides from my perspective on getting everybody vaccinated.”

Register for your vaccination today at tpchd.org/vaxtothefuture. Everyone 12 and older is eligible. You can also just drop in to any clinic and get vaccinated. No appointment is necessary. 

If you need a ride to an appointment or can’t easily leave your home, we can help! Call us at (253) 649-1412, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week. 

Your role to stop the spread of COVID-19 remains critical.