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Black community leaders get vaccinated Thursday to encourage participation

Research shows Black people are three times more likely to die from the coronavirus yet make up only a fraction of those getting vaccinated.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — You can help make sure part of your community isn't left behind in beating COVID-19.

Research shows Black people are three times more likely to die from the coronavirus yet make up only a fraction of those getting vaccinated. Across Florida, there are multiple efforts to change that.

On Thursday at 7 p.m., there's a virtual town hall hosted by the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 that you can tune into to get informed and teach other people. Also on Thursday, community leaders and healthcare workers are getting the vaccine and recording it to show that getting vaccinated is key to protecting your community.

"We are very excited, we're energized," said Folakemi Odedina, program director with the CARE2 Health Equity Center. "I think the energy that we're getting back from the community is really great energy. People want to hear and know more about the vaccine."

Odedina is getting vaccinated Thursday to show minority communities it's what must be done. First Coast News talked to her last month before the vaccine was available. Since then her group hosted a virtual town hall that she says made a big impression.

"I was very moved," she said. "What was very obvious is people want to get the right information."

State data shows only six percent of the people vaccinated in Florida are Black and 58 percent are white.

"Many of our task force members have stood with families at open graves," said Bishop AJ Richardson with the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jacksonville.

Richardson will also be vaccinated Thursday for the same reasons as Odedina. He is part of the 50-member Statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Community Engagement Task Force working to make sure Black people are not left behind. They had their first organizational meeting Wednesday.

"It is incumbent upon this task force to encourage family and friends and members of our congregations and people we associate with, our colleagues, to follow us in rolling up our sleeves," Richardson said. "I'm convinced that this is the way to go. This is the way for us to tackle this bully."

Odedina says Duval County will be the first county to have a virtual town hall specific to the county. That will happen at the end of January or early February.

"I want our community, Black, Latinx, Native American, underrepresented communities, to really understand we are just not saying this, but we are saying this because we really personally believe in the vaccine," Odedina said. "We trust the data, we trust the science, we trust the FDA. So when it is time for us to take it we will take the vaccine."

Get your questions answered by watching the CARE2 Health Equity Center's virtual town hall here.

Find out how to take part in the virtual town hall Thursday here.

RELATED: County-by-County: Where people 65 and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine on the First Coast

How to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Southeast Georgia