Mississippi Black Caucus brings vaccinations to Gulfport congregation

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 8:03 AM CDT
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GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Over the last week, Mississippi has reported an average of 45 deaths per day due to COVID-19, the overwhelming majority of which are people who were unvaccinated.

In an effort to help protect people, the Mississippi Black Caucus teamed up with St. James Missionary Baptist Church and Memorial Hospital, bringing vaccinations to the congregation.

Jimmy Sharpe, a resident in the Soria City community, was happy to roll up his sleeve.

“I want to stay healthy; I want to live,” he said. “I think it’s a great thing that they’re doing it in this community so people could have access to, you know, getting the shots.”

Eddie Hartwell is the pastor the church. His house of prayer has been in the Magnolia Grove community for more than 125 years. Since the start of the pandemic more than a year ago, however, his congregation has met outside the building.

“COVID is such a devastating disease. I mean, it’s impacting people like you wouldn’t believe,” said Hartwell. “I’d be derelict in my duty if I didn’t try to do everything we could to try and encourage people to get the vaccinations.”

According to the Associated Press, Mississippi now has the highest rate of COVID-19 in the country and one of the worst in the world, with about one out of every 320 Mississippians contracting the virus.

In Jackson County, more than 23,000 residents gotten COVID-19 and 336 community members have died.

“I also pray at a small family funeral home that bears our name,” Hartwell said. “And we’ve seen way, way, way, way, way too many people coming through there as a result of COVID. And not a one of the ones that have died have been vaccinated.”

Within the first three hours of the vaccination drive on Sunday, about 30 people showed up to the church for a shot.

“While vaccines may not stop a person from contracting COVID, it will keep them out of intensive care units and it will keep them from dying as a result of it,” Hartwell emphasized.

As of Sept. 16, a total of 88% of the people hospitalized in Mississippi due to COVID are unvaccinated. Of those, 87% of the deaths from COVID were people who were unvaccinated. Thirteen percent of people have died from COVID after receiving the vaccination, however, MSDH reports that the majority of those deaths are people are over the age of 65 and at higher risk.

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