Fauci, NIH director to lead mass vaccination push with church leaders

(The Hill) – The nation’s top infectious diseases expert, Anthony Fauci, and Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will be leading a mass vaccination push with faith leaders in the Washington, D.C., area.

The event, which will take place at the Washington National Cathedral, is aimed at boosting trust in the COVID-19 vaccine by faith leaders and encouraging Americans — particularly communities of color — to get vaccinated when the vaccine becomes available.

The event will be held inside the main worship space of the cathedral. After remarks, 25 interfaith clergy will receive their vaccinations.

The clergy in attendance at the event represent houses of worship across D.C., Montgomery County, Md.; Prince George’s County, Md.; Arlington County, Va.; and Alexandria, Va.

The push from Fauci and Collins comes as skepticism remains in various communities throughout the country about the vaccine. A recent PBS poll found that 49 percent of Republican men say they won’t get vaccinated. 

African American communities have also expressed hesitancy to receive the vaccine after historically racist and inhumane treatment by medical institutions, including in the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

Public health experts warn that if a large swath of Americans do not get vaccinated, it will become hard to combat the pandemic, making room for more strains of the virus to mutate. 

Melissa Rodgers, director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships will also be giving remarks, along with Eliseo Pérez-Stable, director of the NIH’s National Institute on Minority and Health Disparities.

“My NIH colleagues Dr. Fauci, Dr. Pérez-Stable and I are honored to participate in this important event with leaders of all faiths in our common goal to build trust in COVID-19 vaccines that have been proven to be highly safe and effective,” Collins said in a statement.

“Getting all adults vaccinated is how we will together end this terrible pandemic. It’s a ‘love your neighbor’ opportunity,” he said.

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