After a Sunday service at the Church of God Christian Life Center in Dorchester, parishioners trickled into a pop-up clinic in the back room, where a nurse from Boston Medical Center prepared a dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine for Irlande Aime, who fidgeted nervously in a folding chair. The 34-year-old Dorchester resident said the vaccine’s fast-tracked development had made her hesitant about getting the shot for over a year now — even as the virus tore through her community and she was treating COVID patients last year as a nurse at Carney Hospital.

A man gets a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic at the Immigrant Family Services Center in Mattapan, Friday, July 30, 2021
Tori Bedford GBH News

“I wanted to wait because it was something that just happened so suddenly, it was too rapid, too fast,” Aime said. “Before there’s new medication, you must have research, and the research must be for a period of time.”

After the state's mass-vaccination clinics shut down in May, health officials focused on targeting harder-to-reach populations, opening pop-up clinics in houses of worship, senior centers, YMCAs and other community organizations. As of last week, the DPH Mobile Vaccination Program has delivered more than 85,000 doses via 1,577 community-based and state-sponsored vaccination clinics across the state, including the Vax Express, Market Basket clinics, school-based clinics, community-based clinics with centers of worship, community-based organizations and cultural groups all hosting events, according to the Office of Health and Human Services.

A spokesperson for the city’s mobile vaccination effort told GBH News that the Boston Public Health Commission does not have public data on the number of people who have been vaccinated at clinics across the city.

At pop-up clinics like the one at the Church of God, Boston Medical Center has distributed 1,223 vaccine doses. Over a slightly longer period, since February, BMC has distributed roughly 41,000 vaccines at mobile clinics across Boston. Black and Latino residents have made up 68% percent of those vaccinated at the clinics.

The effort has been a slog in a hard-hit section of Dorchester and in Mattapan, the neighborhood with the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated residents in the city, 40.9%. In those neighborhoods, the clinics have fought against misinformation circulating among Haitian immigrants and a longstanding distrust of the health care system among Black Americans rooted in a history of mistreatment.

The Mattapan Community Health Center has been running a small vaccination clinic out of its Blue Hill Avenue facility since December and offers free walk-in vaccinations. More than 2,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, and unvaccinated patients are offered on-site doses during their doctor’s visits.

“We find that most people say no,” said Guale Valdez, the center’s CEO. “The majority of our patients, over 90%, identify as either Black or brown, and that’s where the greatest hesitancy is.”

The health center hosts town halls and distributes public service announcements that include testimonies from clinic staff who give their reasons for getting vaccinated: to protect family members, travel and visit their elderly relatives. Still, Valdez says hesitancy is pervasive and difficult to combat.

“What we’re being told is, it’s going to cause infertility, that there are trackers in the vaccine, that not enough time has been was given to develop the vaccine, that it’s not safe,” Valdez said. “We counter that with very rational, very supportive facts. We always approach whoever’s interested, whoever we’re talking to, in a culturally respective way also, in the languages that we speak here, English, Haitian Creole and Spanish.”

Dorchester resident Emmanuel Dieujuste, 53, gets a dose of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic in Dorchester, Sunday, August 1, 2021
Tori Bedford GBH News

Emmanuel Dieujuste, a Dorchester resident who like Aime is Haitian, got his first shot at the Dorchester pop-up clinic after reports of rising cases of the Delta variant. But for over a year, he said he was frightened by what he saw on social media sites.

“I saw on social, it was scary,” Dieujuste said. “People got different reactions and were warning about it.”

In Mattapan, Rev. Dieufort “Keke” Fleurissaint runs a small clinic out of the Immigrant Family Services Institute on Blue Hill Avenue. The clinic has vaccinated 312 people, and an outreach team regularly fans out across Mattapan Square, urging people to come in and get the vaccine — but Fleuressant says some residents are uncomfortable with the idea.

“People say the vaccine was developed too fast, the AIDS epidemic has been happening for decades and they still don’t have a vaccine to combat that,” Fleurissaint said. “People say the vaccine is designed to reduce the Black race, that it contains a tracking system. Some people say the vaccine is the mark of the beast, in the apocalypse, people who took the vaccine will be identifying with the beast. There are many myths about the vaccine.”

Misinformation on social media exists in every culture, but Fleurissaint says he’s wary of misinformation coming out of Haiti, which has the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate of any country in the world, and its impact on Mattapan, which has the largest Haitian community in the state.

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Rev. Dieufort “Keke” Fleurissaint speaks with a nurse from Boston Medical Center at a small clinic in Mattapan, Friday, July 30, 2021
Tori Bedford GBH News

“We are facing many patients who definitely get the misinformation regarding the vaccine, especially information coming from Haiti regarding the vaccine,” he said.

Another factor that’s holding Mattapan back is a more general mistrust of the medical system within the predominately Black community, one that’s rooted in history, including an infamous 1932 study of syphilis that left Black men in Tuskegee, Ala., suffering with the disease.

But it can make a difference if people see and hear leaders from their community advocating for the vaccine.

“Trusted voices are extremely important, leaders in the community, pastors, priests,” Fleurissaint said. “I call into Haitian radio and invite people to join me, and then I’ve had three or four people say, ‘I wasn’t going to take the vaccine, but the fact that you said, “Come right now,” I’m taking the vaccine.’”

In a recent interview on a community station called Boston Praise Radio, Claudine Bruff-Lopes, a nurse from the New England Regional Black Nurses Association, spoke with local activist and City Council candidate Leonard Lee about the more general racial disparity in health care treatment that she says has affected the vaccine rollout.

“We see disparities and the gaps in care with Black and brown people going to the emergency room, not receiving timely care in the emergency room and not getting the adequate care or medication as our Caucasian brothers and sisters,” Bruff-Lopes said. “That is real. It does happen. Cultural competency in health care providers definitely needs to be improved and not just with a Black and brown community, but also Asians and Guatemalans. We need to really be sensitive and educate ourselves on other cultures.”

State officials say the roughly 900 small mobile clinics focusing on the 20 hardest-hit communities is also an effort to make getting vaccinated convenient for people like Cherlie Noel, a 35-year-old Brockton resident who doesn’t speak English. Noel says she struggled to schedule and access a vaccine appointment until last month.

“I just couldn’t find the time,” Noel said through a Spanish translator.

Brockton resident Cherlie Noel, 35, holds her child while waiting for a vaccine at a small clinic in Mattapan, Friday, July 30, 2021
Tori Bedford GBH News

Last month, Massachusetts state health officials reported a record-breaking uptick in COVID-19 vaccinations with more than 19,000 new doses administered. About 65% of the state’s residents have received at least one dose.

As long as it’s needed, state health officials and community leaders plan on operating smaller mobile clinics as a way to reach out to non-English speakers, immigrants and communities of color.

“We have to make sure that every person who should get a vaccine has a vaccine available to them,” Valdez said. “We’re just going to continue. We don’t have a time frame. We’re just, we’re just going to keep doing it for however long it takes.”