Columbus County church offers COVID-19 vaccines and tests amid recent surge

Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 9:39 PM EST
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WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) - St. Mark A.M.E. Zion Church has partnered with StarMed Healthcare to host a COVID-19 vaccine and testing clinic five days per week. The church’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Mary Nixon, wants people from across the region to come and get vaccinated.

According to the NCDHHS, 42 percent of residents in Columbus County are fully vaccinated, with 45 percent having received one dose. These are the lowest numbers among counties in southeastern North Carolina.

When Nixon realized how the pandemic was impacting the lives of her neighbors, she jumped into action.

“I didn’t know how or what we were going to do,” said Nixon. “But I knew I wanted to do something.”

Nixon reached out to the county health department to find out what she could do in terms of bringing down the number of cases in the county while boosting the vaccine rate.

“I just wanted to help with the fight because I knew the numbers were really high here and I’m in the midst of the numbers by pastoring here,” Nixon said.

Now, the church has teamed up with StarMed Healthcare to host a vaccine and testing clinic five days per week. The clinic has been open since late November.

“I think this is going to be an open door for the community,” said Nixon. “I think they will get to see the signs and all the other information that we’re getting out because we want to be a help. I want to be a help as a pastor.”

Nixon hopes the clinic will bring in people from not only Columbus County, but surrounding rural areas as well. After a tough battle with COVID herself, Nixon wants others to get the vaccine.

“I will encourage anyone. If you have not had it, get it,” Nixon said. “It will save your life.”

Both Nixon and StarMed say the clinic has been a success thus far, and they are seeing more people coming to get vaccinated and tested as case numbers surge across the country.

“We’ve noticed an uptick, for sure, especially during the holidays,” said Enrique Diaz, territory manager with StarMed Healthcare. “Most that are going on a cruise or going away for the holidays, they need verification, whether they’re negative or positive, whether they catch a flight or not.”

The hope is more Columbus County residents will come to the church to get their shot, and Nixon wants to be there to support them when they do.

“You never know, a lot of families have lost family members and loved one,” Nixon said. “And so if I can be an advocate to say ‘Hey, do it,’ do it.”

The church plans to keep the clinic open Monday thru Friday, from 10 to 5, for the foreseeable future. For more details, visit StarMed’s website.

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