The Reverend Dr. Terris King, pastor of Liberty Grace Church of God and CEO of the King Enterprise Group, believes the coronavirus pandemic makes the coming flu season even more deadly.
That’s why he has committed to leading a coalition of ministers, health advocates and city leaders to raise awareness about and increase participation for a flu vaccination as Baltimore prepares for what’s predicted to be a brutal flu season.
The coalition also includes: Bishop J. L. Carter of Ark Church, the Minister’s Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity; the Rev. Alvin C. Hathaway Sr., Union Baptist Church; Bishop Donté L. Hickman, Sr., Southern Baptist Church; the Rev. Michael Phillips, Sr., pastor, Kingdom Life Church; and the Rev. Pamula D. Yerby-Hammack, City of Abraham Church and Ministries.
“I don’t want our people to suffer from the duality of both COVID and the flu,” said King, who joined other Baltimore leaders and the nonprofit research and education organization, The National Minority Quality Forum [NMQF] in developing a pilot program to raise awareness about the flu vaccine.
King noted that the Black communities in Baltimore and Prince George’s County have lower rates of flu vaccinations than the rest of Maryland. The coalition seeks to educate the community about the benefits of a flu vaccine and where to get the shot this fall.
“I got involved simply because I’m in the area of Baltimore, the 21215-area zip code, that’s the hardest hit. My congregation has been hit really hard even though we have services on Zoom. I’ve had people on Zoom in hospital beds with COVID. I don’t want people to get the sniffles because we are susceptible to COVID by going to the emergency room with the flu and encountering those who have the virus,” King said.
For the flu vaccine program, the NMQF’s Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity has joined with the Baltimore City Health Department, Coppin State University’s Helene Fuld School of Nursing and the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. They will offer flu vaccine clinics adjacent to two Baltimore City churches in the coming weeks as a coalition.
Officials said the rate of COVID-19 illnesses and deaths remain high in the Black community which is even more reason for these communities to protect themselves against the flu. Bringing the clinics to the churches in a safe outdoor location can provide parishioners with a further sense of comfort during a trying time, coalition officials said.
“What the flu season does to us as a community is to allow us to emphasize self-help and prioritize your body while helping others,” King stated. “I want folks to watch their diets and everything else they are supposed to do to be holistically healthy and to build that immune system. I want them to be healthy because we are experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus.”
For more information, go to https://health.baltimorecity.gov/flu to see a map of places offering flu shots in Baltimore City or https://nmqf-shc.org/flu-vaccination/ to learn more about closing disparity gaps in vaccinating communities of color.