Church-based vaccine clinics take aim at Delta variant

Somerville hosts Vax Day as Mass. cases rise sharply

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — For 22-year-old Shanka Lacombe, the time -- and place -- had finally converged. And so the aspiring nurse rolled up her sleeve and got her first injection of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday.

“I didn’t feel it!” Lacombe said.

She was one of about 60 people vaccinated after services at the Holy Bible Baptist Church on College Avenue. They ranged in age from teens to those who looked to have been eligible for vaccination way back in the winter.

“We are really trying to get out into the areas where people are having a hard time getting to the vaccination because the timing may not work for them... other locations may not work for them,” said Doug Kress, director of Health and Human Services for the City of Somerville.

The city had three locations open for business Sunday -- between them, 12 hours of vaccinating time available -- and each one at a church. They tend to be effective venues, said Kathy Betts of the Cambridge Health Alliance, one of the organizers, because you’ve got both a captive audience and someone that audience trusts urging vaccination: a pastor or preacher.

“We’re at this point in the vaccination cycle to try to get people who are hesitant,” Betts said. “We have the Delta variant. Everybody’s talking about it here and this protects you against the Delta variant. It protects you from getting seriously ill.”

Massachusetts’ vaccination rate overall is among the highest in the country. But all it takes is a pocket of unvaccinated residents to trigger an outbreak. And it’s possible we may be seeing some of that happening already. On Friday, the state reported 99 cases of Covid and on Saturday, more than 160. The 7-day running average of positive cases is now 0.5% -- a figure that’s been climbing steadily.

“If you look at other parts of the country with lower vaccination rates than Massachusetts, their hospitals are flooded, their emergency rooms are flooded with patients. We do not want to go back to that,” Betts said.

Kress said probably some of the rise can also be blamed on people getting together for the July 4th weekend. And that, he said, only illustrates how important it is to remain vigilant in this seemingly ‘normal’ time.

“It’s still out there,” Kress said. “We still have to be aware and remind ourselves why it’s so important to get vaccinated.”

Shanka Lacombe is the final member of her family to get vaccinated. She says she did it not only to protect them but also the patients she cares for as a nurses’ aide. Was she, like her peers, afraid of the vaccine?

“I don’t really fear because God’s in control of everything,” she said.

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