Robert Gaskin suffers from Type 2 diabetes and admitted fear of contracting COVID-19.
The 73-year-old from Mitchellville, Maryland, calmly sat down to receive a vaccine in his right arm Friday inside Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale.
Gaskin sat beside his daughter, Angela Stewart, who also received a shot in her left arm at a vaccination clinic at Reid Temple.
“I’m pretty happy [and] elated to get the protection I need so I won’t get the disease,” he said minutes before receiving his shot. “If you don’t take it, then you are taking the chance of getting the COVID.”
Gaskin and Stewart joined at least 250 people to receive a vaccine Friday at the vaccination clinic set up inside the church.
Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford visited the clinic to emphasize that the faith community should help showcase confidence and safety in the vaccine.
“It’s a traditional safe place in the community,” he said. “It is very important that the faith community come forward and get the word out, as well as get people to come in and get their vaccines.”
Friday’s clinic was a soft launch to establish the initiative’s partnership with the state, county, church and Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center.
Deneen Richmond, president of Luminis Health, broke down the vaccine distribution for the next three days: 350 on Saturday, 350 on Sunday and 700 on Monday.
“We have a capacity where we could give from 2,000 to 4,000 a day if we had that amount of vaccine available here,” she said.
People can register with the church at www.reidtemple.org.
One common topic of conversation at the Prince George’s County church Friday was equity — or lack thereof— in vaccination distribution throughout the state, particularly in Prince George’s where only 6% of the population has received both doses of the two-shot vaccine, the lowest rate in the state.
As of Friday, the majority-Black jurisdiction leads the state in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases with nearly 71,000.
Gov. Larry Hogan said during a press conference Thursday one of the ongoing challenges is mistrust of the vaccine.
The Republican governor said Maryland received a list of 2,000 Prince George’s County residents who pre-registered for an appointment to receive the vaccine before a mass vaccination site opened at Six Flags America in Upper Marlboro. He said only 19 accepted the appointments.
However, George Askew, a certified pediatrician who works as the county’s deputy chief administrative officer for health, human services and education, said county residents want the vaccine.
As of Friday, more than 111,000 Prince George’s residents pre-registered for appointments to receive it.
“Based on the phone calls I get, Prince Georgians are anxious to be vaccinated,” Askew said.
Sharon Hawks, a certified nutritionist and director of the church’s health community initiative, said her family’s past history of vaccinations still hurts.
Her grandfather died as a result of the federally-sanctioned Tuskegee experiment, during which Black men in Tuskegee, Alabama, were unknowingly exposed to syphilis without receiving treatment from 1932-1972.
“He didn’t get the treatment, but we are,” said Hawks, who received a vaccine Friday. “This vaccine is for everyone and no one is being denied, so we’ve got to step forth and do what we need to do, not only for ourselves, [but for] the community and for this nation. Have the faith that what the scientists have done for us — that is what’s going to get us out of this situation.”