Rockford, Illinois News

New Zion Baptist Church opening as mass vaccination site

ROCKFORD — A west Rockford church will serve as a mass vaccination site beginning this week.

New Zion Baptist Church, 4747 W. Riverside Blvd., will open Wednesday and is expected to vaccinate 1,000 people per week for the next 60 days.

The site is part of the state’s effort to better serve Black and brown communities.

As of Monday, Blacks, who make up 14% of Winnebago County’s population, represent only 6.5% of residents who who’ve been vaccinated and nearly a quarter of the more than 27,000 confirmed virus cases.

Latinos account for 11% of the population and 18% of the total number of infections.

“Black and brown populations in Winnebago County are disproportionately impacted,” Winnebago County Health Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell said at a press conference. “And, they tend to be younger than our Caucasian population.”

Martell said distrust of the vaccine is partially responsible for the low numbers. But she hopes making shots available at a church citizens are familiar with will put more people at ease.

New Zion Pastor K. Edward Copeland said it will also help if the public sees more Black leaders like him receive the vaccine.

“If I show I’m getting vaccinated, I’m saying, ‘It’s safe for you,'” Copeland said. “(And) people know I’m not some random guy.”

Officials say other churches can also play a role by using their buses and vans to bring those without transportation to and from the vaccination site.

“At least in our community, the church is the cornerstone,” Copeland said. “It’s the center of civic life.”

Martell reported 136 new cases of COVID-19 Monday. The seven-day positivity rate is 4%, the highest since March 4, when it dipped to 2.1%. Hospitalizations are also climbing locally, prompting the state to flag Winnebago County as a hotspot for a potential resurgence.

Vaccinations at New Zion will be available Wednesday through Saturday by appointment only. Appointments can be made by registering with the Winnebago County Health Department.