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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Faith Leaders Join Hands In Task Force, Urging African Americans To Take Vaccine

In this January 2019 photo, Rev. R.B. Holmes speaks to the press. He is joining with other pastors in a task force aimed at encouraging African Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 22,000 Florida residents have died as a result of contracting COVID-19. Black people make up nearly 3,800 of those deaths.

Black faith leaders across Florida are joining health experts in encouraging communities of color to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They've formed a task force to spread their message. Tallahassee pastor R.B. Holmes says he will lead by example and take the vaccine.

"All of us have buried, ministered and comforted thousands of people who have died or dying from the virus; this is one battle that we cannot sit out," Holmes says.

To date, more than 22,000 Florida residents have died as a result of contracting COVID-19. Black people make up nearly 3,800 of those deaths. Holmes stresses that COVID-19 is real and that it hits home for him emotionally.

"I've lost many of my closest pastors. My mentors, who've died across this country last year, and I'm burying another one next Monday who died because of COVID-19," Holmes says.

But despite what he calls a life-or-death scenario, Holmes says some people of color might be reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Historically, African Americans have been misused by the medical profession," Holmes said. "People still have a strong, sad memory of the Tuskegee experiment," The Tuskegee study was a 40-year unethical experiment that involved doctors letting misled Black men die from syphilis.

For those who want the COVID-19 vaccine, Holmes foresees obstacles those in the Black community may face.

"Many senior citizens in this community do not navigate the internet. So, what are we doing by people who cannot go online and set up an appointment? May not even have a car to drive to get there," Homes says.

Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson is also on the task force. He's hoping HBCUs can be a hub for COVID-19 vaccinations because he says they are trusted sources in the community.

Copyright 2021 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Robbie Gaffney is a recent graduate from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.