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Reverend Dr. Terris King, the Pastor of Liberty Grace Church of God and CEO of King Enterprise Group, believes the coronavirus pandemic makes the coming flu season all the deadlier.
It’s the reason why he is helping to lead a coalition of pastors, health advocates, and city leaders to raise awareness for a flu vaccination as Baltimore prepares for what’s predicted as a brutal flu season.
The coalition also includes Bishop J. L. Carter of Ark Church, the Minister’s Conference of Baltimore and Vicinity; Rev. Alvin C. Hathaway Sr. of Union Baptist Church; Bishop Donté L. Hickman Sr., of the Southern Baptist Church; Pastor Michael Phillips Senior, Pastor of Kingdom Life Church; and Rev. Pamula D. Yerby-Hammack, City of Abraham Church and Ministries.
“I don’t want our people to suffer from the duality of both COVID and the flu,” expressed King, who joined other Baltimore leaders and the nonprofit research and education organization, The National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF) in developing a pilot program to raise awareness for the flu vaccine.
King noted that the Black communities in Baltimore and Prince Georges County have a lower rate of flu vaccination than the rest of Maryland.
The coalition seeks to educate the community about the benefits of a flu vaccine, and where to get the shot this fall.
“I got involved simply because I’m the area of Baltimore, the 21215-area code, that’s the hardest hit. My congregation has been hit really hard,” King said. “Even though we have services on Zoom, I’ve had people on Zoom in hospital beds with COVID. I don’t want people to get the sniffles because we are susceptible to COVID by going to the emergency room with the flu and encountering those who have the virus.”
For the flu vaccine program, the NMQF’s Center for Sustainable Health Care Quality and Equity (SHC) has joined with the Baltimore City Health Department, Coppin State University’s Helene Fuld School of Nursing and the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
They will offer flu vaccine clinics adjacent to two Baltimore City churches in the coming weeks as a coalition.
The rate of COVID-19 illness and death is high in the Black community, which is even more reason for these communities to protect against the flu, according to health officials.
Bringing the clinics to the churches in a safe outdoor location can provide parishioners with a further sense of comfort during a trying time, coalition officials said.
“What the flu season does to us as a community is to allow us to emphasize self-help and prioritize your body while helping others,” King said. “I want folks to watch their diets and everything else they are supposed to do to be holistically healthy and to build that immune system. I want them to be healthy because we are experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus.”
For more information, visit https://health.baltimorecity.gov/flu to see a map of places offering flu shots in Baltimore City or visit https://nmqf- shc.org/flu-vaccination/ to learn more about closing disparity gaps in vaccinating communities of color.