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Church helping Crown Hill neighborhood residents access the COVID-19 vaccine

Neighborhood is in a pharmacy desert
Posted at 5:36 AM, May 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-19 08:26:46-04

INDIANAPOLIS — More than 2.3 million Hoosiers are fully vaccinated, but access to pharmacies and vaccines is still an issue in some neighborhoods.

The Crown Hill neighborhood on the north side of Indianapolis is located in a pharmacy desert where there is no place to fill a prescription within a half-mile. What was the nearest pharmacy is now a car wash, so a church is connecting with the community to make sure everyone has access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

"The only pharmacy that was within the neighborhood is no longer there," said Jerry Davis III, pastor at Crossroads AME Church. "We have come in to help fill that gap.

He also made to practice what he preaches by already receiving the vaccine.

"When they see the pastor of the church actually getting that shot in the arm, it does more than mere words to suggest and to convey that the vaccine is safe," Davis III said.

However, fear doesn't fade that fast and many residents require even more reassurance.

"There is a significant hesitancy to get the vaccine, especially given the history of what Blacks have experienced as it relates to medicine and experimental medicine in the United States," Davis III said.

Couple that with other challenges and you've got a combination that is holding the Crown Hill community back from moving past the pandemic or even just staying healthy.

"We've looked at the fact that one in five households do not have internet, one in six households have no vehicle and have begun to change and arrange our programming to help ensure that the residents can get to the resources wherever they may happen to be," Davis III said.

For this congregation, that means hosting vaccine drives, panels and even driving residents almost two miles to the nearest pharmacy to get the shot.

"Registration for the vaccine is done online and if someone does not have the internet, they cannot get life-saving treatment," Davis III said. "If you are in a pharmacy desert and you do not have transportation to get to a pharmacy, lack of transportation becomes a matter of life and death."

The problem is without a pharmacy next door, there's a trust barrier that hinders progress and that's a problem, especially when the key to pushing past the pandemic weighs heavily on moving forward.

"Think about health care. That is more than just access to a hospital. It is where I can go to get my prescriptions filled. It is where I can go and have a conversation with a pharmacist," Davis III said.