Black clergy in Delaware push to get community vaccinated against COVID-19

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- A faith leader in Delaware is hoping to lead by example when it comes to the coronavirus vaccine.

Reverend Dr. Donald Dunnigan, who leads the Cornerstone Fellowship Baptist Church with more than 500 members, recently received his second shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

For him, it was a huge leap of faith. He's now part of a larger push of Black clergy working closely with doctors to convince the Black community to get vaccinated. He speaks from firsthand experience of being skeptical.

"Initially, when I heard about the vaccine being done so quickly, I was a little hesitant," Dunnigan said.

While he can relate to skepticism towards the vaccine within the Black community, Dunnigan said it all came down to him doing his research. He lost many congregation members over the past year to COVID-19.

It also hits home for him personally given his wife is a cancer survivor and his own mother faces health issues.

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The Dunnigans decided to get vaccinated on the advice of Dr. Joan Coker, who also happens to be a congregation member. She is now working one church at a time to get members of the Black community vaccinated.

"For me, it starts with the church. My grandfather was a minister, my mother is a civil rights activist, so all I've known and with the history of the nation for us as people of color, the Black church is where you go for restoration," Dr. Coker said.

She shared getting the COVID-19 vaccine was also a tough personal decision, even as a medical professional. But she is determined to educate minorities about what is anticipated to be a life-saving shot.

Dr. Coker works at ENT and Allergy of Delaware. The organization is committed to allocating 50% of its vaccine supply to people of color.

"We knew as physicians of color, we couldn't do it by ourselves," Coker said. "We needed messengers who spoke truth to power, and so there's no other partner but the church."

Reverend Dunnigan said the beauty in his congregation members getting vaccinated is that they will soon be able to see each other face-to-face. He said the church thrives off of that interaction and fellowship.
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