RALEIGH — Tuesday Governor Roy Cooper and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen appealed to church leaders for help with encouraging vaccinations.

In an open letter to faith leaders, Cooper and Cohen expressed their gratitude for the faith community’s support throughout the pandemic response and asked for their help reaching North Carolinians who have not yet been vaccinated.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the deepest expressions of our shared values to protect human life and love our neighbor. It is an act of love to our families and our communities. While we have made much progress in the state, too many people are needlessly getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and dying. Our hospitals are strained, and in other states we’ve seen that care is not readily available for people experiencing non-COVID life-threatening health crises. We need your help,” Gov. Cooper and Secretary Cohen wrote.

The letter outlines three actions that faith leaders can take, including directing their congregation and faith community to trustworthy sources about COVID-19 vaccines, serving as vaccine ambassadors, and hosting vaccination events.

Faith leaders from all religious backgrounds can be trusted figures in their communities. Their word can go a long way in encouraging people to talk with doctors and understand that these vaccines are safe and effective. The NC DHHS Healthier Together team is working with houses of worship to sponsor their own vaccine clinics.

Cooper also highlighted a milestone reached this week in North Carolina’s vaccination progress. Ninety% of North Carolinians age 65 and older have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

To date, North Carolina has administered over 11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 63% of the adult population fully vaccinated. Sixty-eight% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine, including 90% of North Carolinians 65 and over.

Rutherford remains among the state’s counties where vaccinations are lagging.