COVINGTON, Ga. — A historic west Newton church is giving its new health care ministry the task of helping health care workers take on the top public health concern on the planet.
Salem United Methodist Church will host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in tandem with the Gwinnett-Newton-Rockdale Counties Health Departments Sept. 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m..
Health department employees will administer the Pfizer vaccine with help from church volunteers, said the Rev. David Cott, the church’s pastor.
Cott said the church wanted to help provide an opportunity to improve the state’s vaccination rate — which is among the lowest in the nation at 44%.
“We’re seeing some of the highest numbers of new cases and hospitalizations from COVID in Newton County,” Cott said. “This is just one way of us trying to reach out to our community and show them that we care.”
The seven-day moving average of COVID cases in Newton County rose from 39 on Aug. 13 to 64 on Aug. 29, according to Georgia Department of Public Health statistics.
Cott said the effort is part of the 197-year-old church’s new initiative to work with area health-related agencies and businesses “to bring health care right down to our local area, right in the Salem community.”
“We want to reach out to our community — be more engaged in the Salem community,” Cott said.
He said he contacted the health department recently for it to work with the church in an unspecified way on its new ministry. Department officials responded by suggesting a vaccine clinic “which we felt very strongly about supporting,” Cott said.
He admitted some of his 120-member congregation may be hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccination but is generally supportive of hosting a vaccine clinic.
The church returned to in-person services earlier this year and offers two services on Sundays to allow for less attendance and more space for social distancing, Cott said.
The vaccination clinic could lead to other health-related events at the church, such as health screenings, he said. It is scheduled to partner with CVS pharmacy to host a flu shot clinic Sept. 26 at 10:30 and 11:45 a.m.
Michele Kehler, spokeswoman for Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments, said appointments and identification are not required to receive the no-cost vaccine during the church’s event.
She said the Health Department currently provides walk-in COVID-19 vaccines Monday through Friday at four health center locations, including Newton County Health Department, and a mass vaccination site at the former Sears store in Gwinnett Place Mall.
“In addition, the department uses mobile vaccine teams to bring the COVID-19 vaccine into our communities at locations such as schools, churches, community centers, and other sites throughout our three counties.
“When COVID-19 vaccine demand was very high, the department focused on providing vaccinations at our mass vaccination sites, such as Gwinnett Place Mall, to quickly and efficiently vaccinate as many people as possible,” she said.
“In addition to ongoing mass vaccination efforts and those at our health center locations, mobile vaccine teams allow us to serve hard-to-reach populations who often experience trouble accessing vaccines due to challenges that include transportation and language barriers.
“Our mobile teams work closely with partner organizations, local churches, and community groups – often seven days a week – to meet demand,” Kehler said. “This event is a wonderful opportunity for Newton County community members to get vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Salem United Methodist Church is at 3962 Salem Road in Covington. For more information about the vaccination clinic, call 770-786-6027.