STONECREST, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) — New Birth Missionary Baptist Church has held virtual services during the pandemic. On Good Friday, the church opened its doors to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

“New Birth thought it was our responsibility to help the community get vaccinated,” said Senior Pastor Dr. Jamal Bryant at the April 2 event. “We wanted to get in front of the healing process. I’m excited that we’re at full capacity on our very first day.”

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Bryant said the church’s partnership with Elite Medical Associates allowed them to provide 1,800 Pfizer shots onsite. An army of volunteers administered hundreds that day. “We’ve given the vaccine three different times at three different locations. Nobody has ever had a reaction,” said Elite Medical Associates Owner and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Darren Naugles.

Once a patient was checked in, they received the shot and sat for the required 15 minute observation period to check for reactions. “I didn’t hesitate. As soon as I found out my church had gotten something set up, I registered,” said Marcia Law, a church member. “This is for not only your protection, but the protection of others.”

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Bryant said getting the Black community vaccinated has been a challenge because of historical issues, including the Tuskegee Experiment, despite that data shows African Americans have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This time, he said they should count it all joy. “African Americans were critical in the cultivation of both Moderna and Pfizer, and so that’s why I took mine first and did it publicly,” Bryant said.

As church members looked ahead to Resurrection Sunday, they hoped the vaccination event would play a redemptive role in creating a COVID-free community. They also remembered the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. “It says that there is life after trauma,” said Bryant. “We’re stepping into the newness of a new chapter and new possibilities.”

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Bryant said the church will announce plans to administer the next several hundred doses in the coming days.