As Florida continues to set records for new coronavirus cases and hospitalization, a local church is urging residents to get vaccinated. The Impact Church in Jacksonville is now hosting a vaccination clinic in light of the death of six parishioners—all of whom were unvaccinated. All six church-goes died of COVID-19 within two weeks and were healthy, CNN reported.
“All were healthy, all had no preexisting conditions. Four of them were under the age of 30, and they were all unvaccinated,” Pastor Joseph Cooper told News4Jax.
According to the church’s senior pastor, George Davis, the surge in cases associated with the church began in late July; in addition to the six members who died, another 15 to 20 are currently in the hospital with COVID-19 and 10 more are recovering at home.
“It’s pain,” Davis told News4Jax. “These are actual people that I know, that I have pastored. One 24-year-old kid, I’ve known him since he was a toddler.”
Despite the church requiring members to wear masks during services, the virus hit its unvaccinated members hard. In response, Impact Church began hosting public vaccination clinics in conjunction with UF Health, offering anyone 12 and older the Pfizer vaccine. It held its second vaccination clinic on Aug. 7, five months after the first clinic it held in March. It helped give at least 800 people their first dose.
“We believe that the doctors are created by the Lord, and he gave them the information to create this vaccine,” Cooper said. “That’s his answer to this horrible pandemic.”
“Part of my resolve is, yes we are praying, but we aren’t just going to be praying,” Davis said during his service Sunday.”We are going pray and do something. And part of our do something in this situation is that we are having a vaccination event.”
Davis noted that while he did not want to force individuals to be vaccinated, he decided to hold the clinic on Sunday to make it accessible for all those who wished to be vaccinated.”Some came to get vaccinated, then attended one of our services,” he said.
Davis shared that when people questioned why the church was holding another clinic, he responded via a tweet, noting that he was “tired of crying about and burying people I love.”
“So take the political & religious games somewhere else!!” he added.
“We’re having people we care about we’re having to bury, and I really think this vaccine would’ve helped them not pass away,” Davis said according to CBS News. “Despite whatever controversy is attached to it or the concern people may have, I felt it was important to give another opportunity, make it as easy as possible [to get vaccinated].”
According to The Washington Post, in addition to vaccinating more than 200 people Sunday—35% of whom were teenagers—the church had a panel of experts from the University of Florida present at the clinic to answer any questions about the vaccine.
“Several people who told me out of their own mouth, ‘I wasn’t comfortable doing this, but because I’m here in my church, because I’ve heard my pastor talk about it, I’m more comfortable doing it,'” Davis told the Post. “And it isn’t just the elderly folks. It was a lot of young people, who are also being affected by it.”
As of this report, 49% of Floridians are fully vaccinated. The state is experiencing one of the highest surges of cases in the country, consistently breaking daily records. According to The New York Times, on Aug. 3 the state set a record of 50,997 new cases of COVID-19, accounting for about a third of all U.S. cases that day.
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