December 6, 2021

Faith leaders use trusted voices to encourage vaccination

Grants expand support for faith-based organizations working to protect Black and Latino communities from COVID-19.

In April 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic wrought havoc across the country, the Church of God in Christ — one of the nation's largest African American Pentecostal denominations — was hit particularly hard. During that fateful month, as many as 30 bishops and prominent clergy tragically died of COVID-19. The devastation served as a turning point, compelling the faith leaders who remained to protect congregants and communities as the pandemic spread.

The Conference of National Black Churches — comprised of the national leaders of the largest historically Black denominations in America — is a public policy and social justice organization that collaborates among member denominations on behalf of African American communities. CNBC leaders knew that with the right resources, the organization could connect meaningfully with its 30,000 member congregations to dispel myths about vaccination. With a combined membership of over 20 million people — representing more than 80% of Black Christians — CNBC is a powerful partner in the nation’s ongoing vaccination effort.

“We know that many people in communities of color will only trust voices, leaders, and organizations that have consistently served them, and many of those voices are found in their places of worship,” said senior pastor Michael W. Wallace of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Oakland, California.

CNBC’s model of distributing information through its member congregations to equip them to educate, encourage, and mobilize vaccination efforts has been effective. With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of November 2021, CNBC has trained 2,000 church leaders and helped vaccinate over 300,000 people at pop-up sites or by providing transportation to vaccination sites. A $2.1 million grant from Kaiser Permanente to the organization through our fund at the East Bay Community Foundation will help CNBC maintain and extend its outreach efforts as vaccines and boosters become more widely available.

We know that many people in communities of color will only trust voices, leaders, and organizations that have consistently served them, and many of those voices are found in their places of worship.

Reaching broader audiences during the holidays

The CNBC grant is part of additional work Kaiser Permanente is doing to support community organizations that people know and trust as they help increase COVID-19 vaccination rates.

“Last year, our funding efforts helped reach 7 million people with messages to get vaccinated against COVID-19. We’re proud to partner with CNBC, whose leaders have steadfastly promoted vaccination among their congregations and communities” said Stephanie Ledesma, interim senior vice president for community health at Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser Permanente is also supporting similar activities for Latino faith communities, awarding grants to the national Catholic Cares Coalition and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The materials developed by faith leaders as part of this work will better equip church-going elders, grandparents, and parents with tools and credible information to advise younger loved ones who are less likely to regularly attend church. In partnering with faith communities across the country, Kaiser Permanente is proud to provide accurate information about the benefits of vaccination and the risks COVID-19 continues to pose.

“The COVID-19 vaccine has been in wide global use with millions of people for nearly a year now, and it has a strong safety and effectiveness record,” said Nicola Klein, MD, PhD, a pediatrician and director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center.

“The evidence strongly shows that getting sick with COVID-19 runs more risks for children than being vaccinated against it,” she added. “Getting the vaccine now will allow families to feel more comfortable sending their children to school and visiting with vaccinated family during the holidays.”

With children age 5 to 11 now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination and vaccine boosters available to all adults, faith-based leaders and organizations offer trusted spaces where individuals and families can receive counsel and support to make holiday gatherings safer this year.