‘Grateful for the Shot’ Program to Connect Local Religious Leaders with COVID-19 Vaccination Effort

By: Joshua Gras, Writer / Follow South Jersey News Reporting Intern

SOUTH JERSEY — On May 3, Governor Phil Murphy announced that New Jersey will begin working with local religious leaders to encourage unvaccinated community members to get inoculated as part of its new “Grateful for the Shot” initiative.

Gov. Murphy noted during his COVID-19 briefing on Monday that faith leaders are figures who people trust, and they could play important roles in the state’s ongoing effort to get more people vaccinated.

The “Grateful for the Shot” program is meant to help people go straight to vaccination sites after religious services are done – similar to the state’s previous “Souls to the Polls” program in which residents had easy access to voting locations after religious services concluded.

Bishop Tyrone McCombs of Camden is among the religious leaders who agreed to assist in the program. South Jersey will be a focus of the program, as fewer people from the region have been vaccinated when compared to North Jersey. Bridgeton, Camden, and Lakewood are three of sixteen New Jersey municipalities with more than 10,000 residents that had a vaccination rate below 40% as of Monday.

“This is not going to be a competition between towns and communities or meant to shame any community,” Gov. Murphy said. “To the contrary, but having these numbers out there for everyone to see is important to ensuring that everyone is working and pulling together.”

“Grateful for the Shot” is just one part of Gov. Murphy’s broader plan to ramp up New Jersey’s vaccination effort called “Operation Jersey Summer.” This plan is meant to be the biggest push the state has seen yet for vaccinations, as walk-up hours now available across the states six mega sites. Gov. Murphy says that doesn’t want people to feel “discouraged” by long wait times and appointments that don’t work with their schedules.

“Shot and a Beer” is another part of “Operation Jersey Summer.” As part of this program, a number of participating breweries are giving out a free beer to those over the age of 21 with a completed vaccination cards.

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.