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VaxDSM: Encouraging Vaccinations Among Underserved Populations + People of Color

VaxDSM in Polk County

September 30, 2021

For the past 18 months, my fellow faith leaders and I have seen far too many members of our congregations fall seriously ill or die due to the pandemic. We are standing up to say we have seen enough. Enough children losing parents. Enough spouses are saying goodbye for the last time. Enough grandparents taken too soon. This trend cannot continue. And if we come together to get vaccinated against COVID-19, it doesn’t have to continue. VaxDSM Logo


In September 2021, several Greater Des Moines (DSM) faith leaders launched a campaign in partnership with United Way of Central Iowa to encourage vaccinations in the community, focusing on underserved populations and people of color. We aim to help Polk County reach a 70% vaccination rate — to ultimately decrease the rates of serious illness, death and fear present in our communities.

According to research from KFF, 51% of white Iowans had received at least one vaccine dose as of September 2021. In contrast, only 37% of Hispanic or Latino Iowans and only 29% of Black Iowans had received a vaccination by the same time.

There are many reasons for these disparities, from rumors and misinformation about the safety of the vaccine, to distrust of medical professionals based on previous experience and historic mistreatment.

Protecting Our Community Through Vaccination

Whatever the reason for hesitancy, we have a duty to help our brothers and sisters better understand the vaccine and how it increases the likelihood of positive health outcomes for those who contract COVID-19. We must listen to our neighbors, answer their questions and lovingly encourage them to protect their own health and the health of others.

As faith and community leaders, VaxDSM founders are lending our voices to the chorus of those trusted sources encouraging vaccination. We fully endorse these vaccines. We know they are safe and effective. And we know we must protect those we love by stepping up and getting our vaccinations.

In addition to collaborating with DSM churches to combat disinformation, myths and untruths around the vaccine, the public outreach campaign will include ad placements around the region. The theme, “We can live with this,” reflects how the vaccine reduces the chance of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Even more, it highlights how we can return to our normal lives after we all get vaccinated — where we can be together for celebrations big and small.

Vaccine Resources

Resources and frequently asked questions about the vaccine are available at VaxDSM.org in English and Spanish. As this campaign continues, we plan to hold vaccination clinics in the metro to make it easy for our community — and especially church congregations — to begin and complete their vaccinations.

It is the job of the church not only to bring others to salvation, but to help our brothers and sisters live fruitful lives. This campaign is an essential part of that work, as we aim to keep others from suffering the way many have during this pandemic.

Count on the Greater Des Moines Partnership for economic recovery information and business and industry recommendations as the region moves forward from the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about current impacts and future trends from the DSM Forward playbooks here.

Reverend Jonathan Whitfield

Reverend Johnathan Whitfield is the senior pastor of Corinthian Baptist Church. He is helping lead Vax DSM, a local public awareness campaign aiming to help Polk County reach a 70% vaccination rate by focusing on equitable access to information and vaccines for underserved populations and people of color.