The Northeast Mississippi Coalition Against COVID 19 is and organization working through community partnerships to reduce the negative impact of COVID 19. We address COVID 19 vaccine hesitancy, increase COVID 19 vaccine access and address health inequities present prior to COVID 19 but made worse by the pandemic. With the time, expertise, and collaboration of our community partners, we will accomplish these goals through engagement (community, media and leadership), supporting community COVID 19 vaccine providers, conducting COVID 19 mobile vaccinations, seeking community partners to further the purpose of the organization and supporting efforts to address the social determinants of health (e.g. housing, education, criminal justice reform, access to health care, access to insurance).
Antoinette Freeman is the mother of Madalyn Brooke Bails. Bails passed away from COVID-19 in January 2021. She said she wants everyone to take advantage of the shot because of her daughter’s experience. “When Madalyn was here with us, we didn’t have it and I think if we had it, she would have been able to take it and probably be with us today,” said Freeman. “She would be happy to know that this vaccine is helping young people,” Bail’s grandmother, Shirley Freeman said. Madalyn was just 21-years-old when she passed.
In Tupelo, the Temple of Compassion and Deliverance’s Bishop Clarence Parks was among the Mississippi clergy who used his pulpit both in his church and on Facebook. He lost his 91-year-old mother to Covid-19 on April 9, 2020. Hers was among the first cases diagnosed in Tupelo. “It did give me a sense of urgency,” Parks said. “I saw what Covid was doing.” In addition to moving church services online and into the parking lot, Parks made a point to talk to his congregation about how to protect themselves, their parents and grandparents from Covid-19. As small groups came back inside the church, masks were required. He talked to other pastors about safeguarding their flocks. Parks, 61, posted on Facebook when he got his Covid-19 vaccine. In his congregation of 400, Parks estimates about 15 became infected with Covid-19. “My mom is the only one in our church who passed from Covid,” Parks said.
Bishop Clarence Parks
Temple of Compassion and Deliverance, Tupelo, MS
It was one year ago, when Covid-19 changed former Memphis and NFL wide receiver Russell Copeland’s world. The virus took his dad’s life. He also lost his aunt and friend. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss my father,” Copeland said. “We were very close. During football season, we would talk about football. Not being able to see him every day it’s been very difficult.” Exactly a year later, things came full-circle. Copeland got his first Moderna shot. While he did it to protect himself and his loved ones against Covid-19, he also wanted to send the message to the Black community in Mississippi, to get the shot. He teamed up with the Northeast Mississippi Coalition against Covid-19 to spread the word and make the vaccine as accessible as possible. One of the Founders Tomika Townsend said the goal is to vaccinate, “As many people as we can. Because the disparity is there. 30% of African Americans in Mississippi have been vaccinated. As opposed to almost 80% of White people. Mississippi has the highest percent of African American residents. When you look at that, you put those numbers together. It’s alarming.”
Townsend, a nurse, one of the founders of the coalition. She teamed up with Dr. Vernon Rayford, Dr. Nancy Hooks and State Representative Rickey Thompson. Together they educate people on the vaccine and get into rural communities to give shots to those who have a hard time accessing a vaccine. “Our objective is to go out into the community to see familiar faces they recognize that they’ll feel more comfortable with and have the trust to give them the knowledge to give them on the vaccine,” Rep. Rickey Thompson said. “It’s your choice, we don’t force anything on anyone. However, your success will be a whole lot better surviving. Because as you know, in the state of Mississippi, we’re 30% of the population and we’re number one not being vaccinated.”
Copeland had reservations about getting the shot, but after he researched the vaccine, talked to doctors and nurses about side effects and long-term effects, he decided it was the right decision for him. Now, he hopes he influences others to do the same. “I just feel like in order for us, especially the African American community, to beat this virus, it’s very important for us to get it. The African American community has cardiovascular disease, they have diabetes, they have hypertension and they have obesity and these are the areas that are affecting the African American community.”
The coalition will be doing the rural vaccinations for as long as they need to.
former Memphis, TN and NFL wide receiver
"We've gotten a chance to talk to people, engage with people and ask them what their concerns and hesitation are about the vaccine and address many of those."