I-TEAM: Pastor uses radio to urge Hispanic community vaccinations

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 7:34 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - COVID continues to spread like wildfire all across the country. Meanwhile, vaccination rates differ depending where you live and Georgia and South Carolina are both lagging behind. But our I-Team has learned a group here in our area is defying this data.

But it didn’t start out that way. Two months ago only 20 percent of our local Hispanic community was vaccinated. Now, a local Hispanic church has achieved an 80 percent vaccination rate, and it all started when a pastor invited a doctor to church.

And not just any doctor, Pastor Angel Maestre invited AU’s chief of infectious diseases.

“A lot of people just don’t believe the government,” said Dr. Vasquez.

First, on his church radio station OASIS 97.3 FM then word spread to his congregation.

“We ended the service and we kept talking in church about science which is, many pastors are not opening their doors to speak about science because we speak about faith – about the Bible,” said Pastor Maestre.

But Pastor Maestre says faith in medicine in our local doctors is important, too. This week the conversation continued over the airwaves with News 12 NBC 26 executive producer Janelys Villalta joining in.

The latest local update is not comforting. Dr. Vasquez says all three of Augusta’s hospitals are once again overwhelmed.

“We are bursting at the seams, if you will…I don’t mean to alarm folks, but we are definitely, this is not a time to be playing around and not getting the vaccine,” said Dr. Vasquez.

Still, data shows Hispanic communities are hesitant. In South Carolina, 38 percent have had at least one dose. In Georgia only 37 percent. So how has Pastor Maestre reached 80 percent?

He says his approach is delicate, his only focus is on educating people so they can make informed choices.

“We are not pushing an agenda. We are just giving...advice, so hey, we need to do something for yourself and for our families and for our community,” said Pastor Maestre.

Which Dr. Vasquez believes is key. When you know better, you can make better choices.

“Every day, we have people getting vaccinated that did not want to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Vasquez.

No one in the OASIS congregation has died from COVID and the church also has had very few cases. Dr. Vasquez says it’s proof education works.

OASIS 97.3 reaches up and down the east coast and all the way to Puerto Rico so the church is reaching a whole lot of people.

For our Spanish speaking viewers, here is Dr. Vasquez’s full Spanish interview:

You can also find a longer version on the OASIS 97.3′s Facebook page.

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