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North Charlotte church hosting COVID-19 vaccine clinic after deadly virus outbreak

The United House of Prayer in north Charlotte will be hosting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic months after a massive outbreak was linked to over 200 cases and nine deaths.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The United House of Prayer for All People in north Charlotte teamed up with Mecklenburg County Public Health to host a COVID-19 vaccine clinic this weekend. 

The clinic, which is open for Groups 1 and 2 vaccinations, ran from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20. Eligible individuals were able to register online or call the county's COVID-19 hotline at 980-314-9400 to schedule an appointment.

Mecklenburg County Medical Director Meg Sullivan says this is part of an effort to branch out and reach disproportionately impacted and underserved communities.

After many reported they were either unable or hesitant to attend other mass vaccination events, like at Bank of America Stadium and Bojangles Coliseum.

“We recognize getting to Bojangles may have challenges or they want to go to places they know and trust with community leaders they know and trust,” Sullivan said.

Many congregation members were among those vaccinated.

“With it being here I think it made them a little more comfortable,” Tanya Howie said, a church member from United House of Prayer.

The church, now a place where hundreds are being protected from COVID-19, was previously under fire for being the source of a super spreader event.

Now the two working together to vaccinate as many people as possible.

“We worked really closely with them months ago about COVID cases now were working with them on the COVID vaccine,” Sullivan said.

“There’s been a lot of miscommunication, I think this shows we are a community, we believe in love, and we want everybody to be well…so when easter Sunday comes, you’re going to feel good and we’re going to give god his praises,” Howie said.

Five hundred healthcare workers and seniors were vaccinated Saturday at the United House of Prayer.

RELATED: Where to receive your coronavirus vaccine in the Carolinas

Community-based clinics like this one are essential to making sure we equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines here in Mecklenburg County," Health Director Gibbie Harris said. "We’re excited to partner with the United House of Prayer for All People to offer 500 vaccines to healthcare workers and seniors in the Beatties Ford Road corridor."

Last year, the United House of Prayer on Beatties Ford Road was linked to a major COVID-19 outbreak. At least 208 cases and 12 deaths were connected to a mass gathering at the church. Despite the outbreak, Bishop CM Bailey urged church members to attend more large events and services.

"There were other outbreaks and there were a lot of deaths within the church already," one anonymous member said. "It's sad, the fact that people already died and you're going forward and just stepping over their bodies like their life didn't matter."

RELATED: North Charlotte church hosting another mass gathering months after deadly COVID-19 outbreak

"The public health department is here for the health of our community. the United House of Prayer for All People is a staple in this community," Dr. Raynard Washington, Deputy Health Director in Mecklenburg County, told WCNC Charlotte.

Church congregants are predominately Black. This clinic part of an effort to make vaccines more accessible.

"Making sure that the vaccine was there, accessible easily without any hurdles or challenges is an important part of making sure we equitably distribute the vaccine in Mecklenburg County," Washington said. "We want to have good partnerships with all of our houses of worship, we see them as incredible partners to be able to help us ensure the health of our community is protected and improved. People trust their pastors."

Efforts to make vaccine access more equitable are starting to work.

"We're putting a significant dent in the disparities in terms of who's receiving vaccines and who is not," said Dr. Ricky Woods with First Baptist Church-West.

For Atrium Health, using roving vaccine units has been critical to meeting people where they are.

"75% of those vaccinated through our roving model have been African American and Hispanic," said Fernando Little with Atrium Health.

Next Wednesday, Novant Health will likely open its clinic on East Independence Boulevard. The goal, to vaccinate 5,000 people a day, when the supply allows.

"It is on a public transportation route and there is a fair amount of Latino population in that area too," Nikki Nissen said.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.

Mecklenburg County health officials are still accepting requests from community organizations to host public vaccination clinics. These clinics will be prioritized for areas hit hardest by the pandemic across Charlotte.

“We welcome our eligible neighbors and members to our property for vaccination this Saturday,” said Apostle R. White, a pastor at the United House of Prayer for All People. “The impact of health disparities on African Americans is well documented. As predominantly African American congregation here in Mecklenburg County, the United House of Prayer—and our leader Bishop C.M. Bailey, felt it incumbent upon us to open our doors and encourage our members, neighbors and friends to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Furthermore, we continue to urge our community to properly wear masks, socially distance, and stay home if you are sick.”  

RELATED: Religious freedom in a pandemic: Some churches drawing crowds as COVID cases rise

More information about the COVID-19 vaccine is available at www.MeckNC.gov/COVID-19 or by calling the Public Health COVID-19 hotline at 980-314-9400.