Sharing life-saving vaccine

Published 6:28 pm Friday, July 9, 2021

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GATES – It was billed as a COVID-19 drive-thru vaccine event, but took on more of the appearance of a community health fair

Disability Rights North Carolina joined forces with local and regional organizations on June 24 to conduct the vaccine clinic at the Gates County Health Department. Just across the road at the Easons Crossroads Ballpark, non-profit entities set-up shop to share their brand message (and free items). The ballpark also served as the registration/staging area for those receiving the vaccine at the health department. There, they were also entered into several drawings for prizes, to include gift cards and a chance to win a laptop computer.

Gates County Lions Club member Willie Earl Hofler (left) chats with Curtis Hill of Disability Rights North Carolina at the clinic. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

Rev. Dr. Claude Odom of New Middle Swamp Missionary Baptist Church was among those on hand at the event.

“We’ve been active in encouraging church people to come get their shots,” Odom said. “It’s very important to get this vaccine, especially now with the new Delta variant of the virus making its rounds.”

Rev. Odom said he was concerned about the low number of Blacks opting to receive the vaccine, saying he read that only 20 percent of minorities in eastern North Carolina are vaccinated.

“Some fear that the vaccine is like the Tuskegee Experiment,” he said, noting the study, which began in 1932, enrolled 600 Black men in Alabama in an effort to control syphilis. In order to track the disease’s full progression, researchers provided no effective care as the men died, went blind or insane or experienced other severe health problems due to their untreated syphilis. (

“We know that COVID has killed a half-million people and we know that those taking the vaccine have been spared in terms of not getting the virus, so, to me, the evidence is clear that this vaccine is working,” Odom stressed. “We need to get this pandemic behind us and the only way to do that is to take the vaccine.”

The Gates County Lions Club set up a tent as part of the vaccine event. Willie Earl Hofler said the organization was able to continue their local projects during the pandemic.

“We stressed social distancing, wearing masks, and getting vaccinated,” Hofler said. “Getting the shot is a pretty simple procedure; you can make an appointment and in less than 20 minutes it’s over and done with.”

Curtis Hill was among the Disability Rights North Carolina staff on hand at the event.

“This is a two pronged approach for us – a drive-thru vaccine clinic and the other component is to reach out to those who are not mobile and vaccinate them in their homes,” Hill said. “We wanted to remove any barriers that prevented those wanting to receive the vaccine.

Volunteers register drivers/passengers of these two vehicles before they receive the vaccine. Staff Photo by Cal Bryant

“We also used several platforms – print and electronic media, radio, and social media – to inform people about this event and the vaccine itself,” Hill continued. “We want to curb people’s fears about the vaccine. We realize the importance of people having the right information so they can make decisions about taking the vaccine.”

When asked what he saw as the biggest fear surrounding the vaccine, Hill again stressed getting the message across that the shots are safe and effective.

“It’s gotten to the point where this is becoming a political issue rather than a health issue,” he observed. “So when you move things that way, people becoming leery about it. They search the internet for answers rather than consulting their doctor, or talking to a family member or friend who has been vaccinated without any complications.”

The Pfizer vaccine was administered at the Gates County event for those ages 12-and-older. Second doses will be available at a follow-up event from 10 a.m. until 12 noon on July 15.

Those needing a free ride to the July 15 clinic can call GITS (Gates Inter-Regional Transportation System) at 252-357-4487 in advance of the event.

If you are unable to leave home and need the vaccine, arrangements can be made to visit your residence by calling 919-227-3952 or 877-235-4210 or TTY – 711.

For additional information, contact the Gates County Health Department at 252-357-1380.

Disability Rights NC will conduct several other vaccine clinics across the state in conjunction with their work on Project ACCESS (All Communities Count Equitably for Safety and Support).

Iris Green, Director of Constituent Services with Disability Rights North Carolina, thanked the local partners involved in the June 24 event, to include Albemarle Commission Area Agency on Aging, GITS, Albemarle Regional Health Services, Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, and Gateway Community Health Center

“We were honored to partner with the Gates community during this critical time, and humbled by the generosity of their service and for making a difference to those who stopped by to get vaccinated on June 24. Those who were vaccinated puts us one step closer to getting past this COVID-19 pandemic,” Green said.

Disability Rights NC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and the only organization that provides free legal advocacy services to people with all types of disabilities, of all ages, throughout North Carolina. They are the state’s designated protection and advocacy agency and recognized leader in advancing disability rights.

More information about the agency and the work they do can be found on their website:


About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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