(RNS) — President Joe Biden visited a Virginia seminary chapel that is being used as a COVID-19 vaccination clinic as his administration moved up the date when he hopes all Americans will be eligible to get a vaccine.
“We’re in a situation where we — I believe, by the end of this summer, we’ll have a significant portion of the American public vaccinated,” the president said on Tuesday (April 6) at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria.
“I think before another 25 days, we’ll probably have somewhere in excess of 200 million shots that have been administered.”
Since early February, the Episcopal seminary has worked with Neighborhood Health, a nonprofit organization focused on health equity in Northern Virginia, to use the school’s Immanuel Chapel as a clinic for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to patients and family members.
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“Our chapel is continuing to share the Gospel in this season, although it is taking a slightly different form,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of VTS, in a statement. “The President’s visit to the campus is a celebration of a faith-based organization working in partnership with a neighborhood health association to ensure that people stay well and safe during this pandemic.”
The chapel-turned-clinic has provided an average of 300 vaccinations twice a week.
In remarks from the State Dining Room later in the day, Biden noted that the partnership is one of many such alliances between faith and medical institutions happening across the nation. Two-thirds of patients at such centers live below or at the poverty level, he said, and 60% are ethnic and racial minorities.
“People are coming together across the different faiths to serve those most in need, with a special focus on vaccinating seniors from all races, backgrounds, and walks of life,” he said. ”It’s an example of America at its finest.”
From Oklahoma to North Carolina to Washington, D.C., vaccination clinics have been hosted by houses of worship in conjunction with health professionals to inoculate older adults and others.
Biden said his visit to the seminary coincided with “an important milestone”: The previous day “we crossed 150 million shots in 75 days” — his tenure in office to that date.
But with the country reaching more than 554,000 COVID-19 deaths, Biden urged seniors in particular to “get vaccinated now,” as his new date of April 19 approaches of having all American adults eligible to register for vaccinations. The previous date was May 1.
“To make it easier, my administration is sending aid to community groups to drive seniors to vaccination sites,” he said. “We’re incredibly grateful to all the volunteers, houses of worship, and the civic groups that are helping us in this effort.”
Biden added that his staffers also will continue to link with faith-based and community groups as vaccinations become available to all adults — registering people for appointments, hosting clinics and transporting people to get their shots.
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