Exclusive: Free rides in Waterbury to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19

News 8 Exclusive

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Governor Lamont recently announced Waterbury has the highest COVID case rate in the state. That bothered the Pastor at Waterbury’s oldest church that predominantly caters to the city’s African-American community.

“I wanted to try and minimize the obstacles and challenges that prevent people from getting vaccinated,” said Pastor Kristopher Reece, of Grace Baptist Church. “We wanted to try and do something to try and minimize people having excuses why not to get vaccinated.”

What he did was ask a member of the church to use the church van to give people free rides to their vaccination appointments. Those appointments are at the Wheeler Health & Wellness Center at 855 Lakewood Road. But, the church isn’t stopping there.

They and workers at Wheeler make the appointments for those who call the church saying they want one — meaning you don’t have to deal with trying to navigate the state’s VAMS website.

“We shared with the local clinic we’ve partnered with, the frustration that people had going through the VAMS system,” Pastor Reece said. “I wanted to try and minimize the obstacles and challenges that prevent people from getting vaccinated.”

So far, the program has been a success. It just started at the beginning of the month and they’ve already vaccinated 100 people. The Site Director at the Wheeler facility on Lakewood Road says the goal is to reach 100 people a month. They’ve already done that in the first nine days of the first month of their partnership.

“We do know that Waterbury has been hit very hard by the pandemic,” said Amanda Pratte, of the Wheeler Health & Wellness Center in Waterbury. “We know that we really need to address some of the health disparities that are present here and we really need to focus on making sure that the people of Waterbury are getting the attention that they deserve.”

Grace Baptist Church is located at 65 Kingsbury Street in Waterbury. The phone number is 203-756-5269.

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