WHEELING — The Partnership for African American Churches is in Wheeling this week doing COVID-19 testing and vaccinating people against the virus.
Organizers said PAAC’s goal is to get minorities and the underserved vaccinated against the virus to help protect themselves and others around them.
PAAC’s COVID-19 Surge Testing and Vaccination Team has been traveling around the state of West Virginia in an effort to help people. The team was at Catholic Charities 18th Street Neighborhood Center on Tuesday, and is slated to be at the Hil-Dar Community Center in Elm Grove between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. today.
Wheeling resident Wanda Morgan, a PAAC community health worker, said the team has been traveling to different sites in the Northern Panhandle getting people vaccinated. The team has been in the panhandle since January, but PAAC has been in existence for about 20 years.
“Last week we had a great turnout. We did between 10 and 15 vaccinations and had people tested,” Morgan said, noting they had most recently been at the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling and in Wellsburg.
Morgan noted some people are hesitant to get the vaccine, but the group tries to give them the correct information about the virus and vaccine to help make a decision.
She noted recently a man decided to get vaccinated after dealing with what he believes are side effects of possibly being infected with the virus – ringing in the ears — in the past. Still, the decision to get the shot was not an easy one for him as he had been exposed to misinformation about the virus and vaccines, she said.
“He was reluctant. He about teared up. … We just talked to him and showed him some compassion. … He got the Johnson & Johnson, one and done,” Morgan said, adding she hoped they could reconnect with the man for a booster shot in the future.
Among those getting the vaccine Tuesday were Allecia Creighton, who is employed at Catholic Charities. Creighton said her shot was a booster. Sierra Simeth, an AmeriCorps member working at the center, was getting her first vaccine. She said she decided to get the shot to help family, not necessarily herself.
“My family has major health conditions. … I’m the last in my family to get the shot,” she said.
Darlene Ingram, PAAC community health worker, said she has enjoyed traveling across the state of West Virginia to get people vaccinated. She noted she is a lifelong resident of West Virginia and it was nice seeing places she has not visited before. Tuesday was her second trip to Wheeling. She said the program is important because there are people who don’t have transportation to reach far away clinics. Whether it is 100 people or just one person, every clinic is worth it, Ingram added.
The team included people helping check people in, cleaning the vaccination stations and administering the vaccines.
Registered nurse Tammy Pennant prepped the doses while licensed practical nurse Vivian Ekenasi gave the shots. Ekenasi also helped medical assistant Brenda Sparksman of Wheeling give some shots as well.
No insurance is required. Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5 and older will be available during the clinic at Hil-Dar today. The team’s goal is to reach all 55 counties in West Virginia.
Also on hand for the clinic was the Mountain State Parent-Child & Adolescent Network, which was providing information about why children’s mental health matters along with COVID-19 information. Debbie Evan, project assistant director with the network, said they had been traveling across the state since last summer educating people about COVID and children’s mental health.