COVID-19 ‘pod’ in Sarasota aims to close gap in vaccination disparities

Nearly 400 people received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the World International Church on Sunday.

It was a closed point of dispensing, or "pod," for African-Americans and Latinos who are 65 and older.

"In Sarasota, there's been roughly 61-62,000 individuals vaccinated, but a little over only 1,200 of Black and brown individuals have been vaccinated, so we see the disparity gap is huge," said Trevor Harvey, the president of the Sarasota County NAACP.

Harvey said using houses of worship as vaccination sites not only makes it more accessible, but it also increases trust among minority groups.

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"In the Black and brown communities, the church is the place that most people support or trust," Harvey said. "So, when those of us that are involved in the faith community stand up and say, ‘Hey, this is important for our communities. There's a disparity in the communities.’ They trust our leaders in the churches."

Health experts say the church is in an area with a low vaccination rate among people who are eligible.

"We look at the zip codes and see the vaccination rates in the county here, and this area has a very, very low vaccination rate. It's like 3%, so we decided this would be the best place to host this," said Dr. Yusif Addae, the president of the Gulf Coast Medical Society.

Medical experts said they hope to increase the frequency of these closed pods from monthly to weekly. But that depends on the supply of the vaccine.