Written by Vivian Shipe
Published on 25th February 2021
In one of the smoothest operations seen in Knoxville, over 400 elderly, ages 70 and up were given their first vaccine shot of the Pfizer brand in less than 6 hours. The people will return to the same location for their second dose in about 22 days.
Thanks to the belief in their ability to pull it off; Dr. Keith Gray, African American Chief Medical Officer of the University of Tennessee Medical Hospital made the vaccine available.
The African American Clinician Workgroup, under the sponsorship of the Faith Leaders Initiative, CONNECT Ministries, and New Directions Healthcare Solutions, did exactly what they said they could do if given the chance: they could get the vaccine in the arms of the Black population if the vaccine was brought into the community instead of making the elderly go across town for it.
The historic first event was held at Mt. Olive Baptist Church. The Knox County Health Department and many Black organizations partnered as volunteers to make sure the seniors were well treated, socially distanced and were in an out in less than 20 minutes from the time they arrived for their appointment time to the time they were helped back to their rides.
Dr. Gray and New Directions Director Cynthia Finch, who were the planners and coordinators for the event, did not just stand and observe. They set up chairs in signed people in, talked to those in line waiting their turn, and even drove wheelchairs thru out the day.
Dr. Gray, who has worked with the Faith Initiative since it began meeting in May of 2020 has promised to hold even more vaccine events in the inner city as vaccine becomes available.