A line of people eagerly awaited the peace of mind that comes with vaccination during a COVID-19 vaccine event at Pilgrim Baptist Church on Barksdale Road last week.
The May 5 event was a collaboration with three other African-American churches in Newark – St. John’s AM Church, Prayer Temple Ministries and Mount Zion UAME Church.
The churches worked with Rep. Paul Baumbach to help organize the event and received assistance from the state health department and members of the Delaware National Guard in administering the vaccine.
Pastor Blaine Hackett from St John’s said Pilgrim Baptist hosted the vaccination event because it has the largest building among the four churches.
Pilgrim Baptist Pastor Lonnie Rector said the church’s first vaccination event was in March. Though in the past, vaccination events have focused on the older people, last week’s focused on young people. Many of the 450 members of his congregation received the vaccine before his church got involved, so he focused on getting the wider community inoculated. Rector said that it was difficult to get younger people to sign up the shot because of misinformation.
“They’re all afraid to take the shot,” Rector said. “There was a lot of propaganda out there, saying the shot would make them sterile. They didn’t trust the shot. They didn’t want side effects.”
Rector said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine recall showed that regulatory agencies are enforcing strict safety standards, as the company’s vaccine was temporarily removed from the market after causing just six blood clots, a rate of clotting far less than other common medications such as birth control.
Jennifer Franklin, a member of Pilgrim Baptist who received her vaccine last week, said the lack of trust around the vaccine was mitigated through word of mouth, as people who were vaccinated were able to attest to its safety. She said she tried to get many of her peers to sign up for the vaccine.
“There was just so much stigma in the beginning and it did seem a little rushed, but when more information came out, and after conversations with doctors and our peers, there was a sense of confidence,” Franklin said.
Many of the 79 people who received their second dose last week were part of the younger demographic Rector hoped to bring in. People received the shot for many reasons, from a desire to keep loved ones safe, to being able to enjoy simple pleasures like going to the beach, while still remaining protected from COVID-19.
“It’s really just trying to get the world back to some kind of normalcy,” Franklin said.