By Velena Jones

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento’s vaccine rollout is expanding to local churches as religious leaders take it upon themselves to educate and provide the shots to those in under-served communities.

The Oak Park community has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19 in Sacramento County. Church leaders say by teaming up with UC Davis Health, vaccines are now going to people who may not otherwise have access to it.

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To get the vaccine or not can be a hard decision even in areas disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“I really don’t know what to think. I’m kind of in limbo,” said resident Kameelah Whitaker.

At barbershop World Class Faders, the lines some draw on the vaccine are as clear cut as their hair. Whitaker explained while sitting in the barber chair that she has concerns with how fast the vaccine was developed.

“Not enough time, not enough data for me,” she said.

There has also been discussion of apprehension sparked from the Tuskegee Experiment, a study where black men with syphilis were not told or treated for their disease.

“I see what the government did to the men in Tuskegee, it probably won’t happen here, but I read about that and I don’t want to put that in my body,” said Ricky Johnson Jr.

Desmond Lewis and multiple people in his family have already been vaccinated.

“I’ve heard good things, I’ve read good things. So, I trusted the science,” he explained.

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Others are waiting in anticipation for their turn.

“I plan to mainly because I travel and also because I’m a father, so the safety of my kids and others,” explained Timothy McDowell

Aside from apprehension, Pastor Mark Meeks at City Church Sacramento, a site that will serve as the first vaccination clinic in Oak Park, believes the bigger obstacle is access and information

“You have probably equally divided on those who are ‘nope’, those who are ‘yes’ and those who would like more information. Engage me, inform me, care about me before you jab me with a needle in the arm,” he explained.

Meeks has been going door-to-door canvasing the neighborhood to inform people of the vaccination clinic that will open at the church starting Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“The folks that we are approaching and offering vaccinations, they would more than likely fall through the gaps of life in terms of anyone being concerned with them and ask them do you want a vaccination,” he said.

The church is partnering with UC Davis Health to distribute 100 vaccines per week. The area is part of a target announced by Governor Newsom last week to set aside 40% of vaccines for the hardest-hit communities. Meeks said it’s a step toward equality that’s been missing.

“Communities like the 95817 and 95820 have not been a priority so part of it is education,“ he explained.  “It’s important that we bring opportunity and really do everything possible to take away the impediments of vaccinations.”

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The clinic will be held at the church every Friday for the foreseeable future by appointment only. Meeks hopes they will be able to eventually increase the vaccines available.

Velena Jones