NEWARK, NJ — Latino clergy members in Newark this week were joined by Essex County officials to commence a partnership aimed to promote COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts in minority communities. 

The partnership follows suit with recent efforts Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo has undertaken to ensure the vaccine’s safety in Black and brown communities that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

“We want to make sure that anyone who wants to take the vaccine has access to it when their turn is called,” DiVincenzo said. “People hold their religious leaders in high regard and often turn to their faith leaders for direction when they have concerns about things happening in their communities. By partnering with leaders from our faith-based community, we are hoping to demonstrate to residents how safe getting the vaccination is.”

The county executive commenced the partnership during a press conference at the Essex County College Vaccination Center on West Market Street where pastors, clergy and church representatives spanning 14 Newark churches. 

Referring to a Bible verse, Rev. Leslie Ramos, pastor of La Hermosa Church in Newark, said, “People perish because of the lack of knowledge. I am encouraging our community to get vaccinated because getting vaccinated is safe and best way to put an end to the virus,” she said.  “We must continue to keep our guard up and continue with protocols for the betterment of our lives.”

“I am a COVID survivor and I have been vaccinated,” Rev. Gisela Figueroa of Temple Rock of My Salvation in Newark, added. “It’s important that we get vaccinated for the health and safety of our families.” 

Teaming up with local religious leaders to get vaccines to minority communities has remained a steady plan for area officials to mitigate the spread of the virus while ensuring equitable access to the vaccine.

Other efforts to roll out the vaccine and accessibility have included the introduction of mobile pop up clinics, the recent launch of an equitable vaccine initiative headed by community leaders and expanding sites for local educators

Last week, Bishop Rudy Carlton headed a four-day initiative to open up his doors at Jehovah Jireh Praise & Worship Church on South 15th Street to nearly 500 people a day to help them get their first and second doses of the vaccine. The effort administered nearly 1,800 vaccines to Newark residents. 

In February, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka stood alongside several community religious leaders as they received their vaccines to advocate for the effort. 

As of April 5, Essex County officials reported that 137,440 first doses and 85,736 second doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in addition to 5,222 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Residents can make appointments at www.EssexCOVID.org or by calling 973-877-8456. Vaccinations will be given in two doses. Residents making reservations to receive the vaccination will receive two appointments.

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