About 80 people received coronavirus vaccinations today at a Covington pop-up site that could become more common in the coming weeks.

Baptist Memorial Hospital-Tipton and Dyersburg State Community College teamed up to get the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccination into the arms of citizens who showed up at Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Covington.

The event, coined a “vaccine drive” by BMH-Tipton officials, was for those in the 1c category and did not require an appointment. Most people were in and out of the church in 30 to 45 minutes.


“One of the things we wanted to do was tap into the population that might have difficulty scheduling on the tennessee.gov site,” said Parker Harris, CEO at BMH-Tipton. “We wanted to tap into the Covington population. It’s our mission to serve. We wanted to make it easy and convenient and we wanted to partner with community churches.”

Harris said the hospital is starting to receive weekly deliveries of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and would like to hold more events like the one today.

“What we’re hoping is the state health department sees that we can make this model work, they’ll send us more each week and we can start doing more here or at other locations,” he said.

Maurice Darby, senior pastor at St. John, said hospital officials approached his church and he was more than happy to help.

“Anything that deals with the community or addresses the needs of the community, I’m 100 percent in,” Darby said. “This is our first time doing this so we know what adjustments we need to make for next time. So far, so good.”

St. John is located in a primarily African-American neighborhood of Covington and it’s no secret many Black Americans are skeptical about the government-sponsored vaccination program.

Larrick Johnson receives the Johnson and Johnson vaccine Thursday morning at Greater St. John MB Church in Covington. Photo by Jeff Ireland

“There are times when I sense a hesitancy,” Darby said when asked about the issue. “Of course, if you look back at history there is evidence to suggest why they should be apprehensive. But, in this particular case, coronavirus is a disorder that it not just hurting the Black community. It’s hurting people, human beings, white, Black, all kinds. Whatever part we can do to help fight it I think is in the best interest of everybody, not just a particular race, culture or people.”

Baker McCool, the EMS program director at DSCC, was organizing the shot process while church members helped people fill out paperwork and socially-distance in the church’s sanctuary.

Eddie Anderson and his wife, Dorothy Elaine Anderson, were among the first people vaccinated at St. John. Eddie, 78, said he suffers from COPD and his doctor said he might not survive if he contracted the virus.

“I think it’s absolutely super,” Eddie said about the experience. “The environment could not have possibly been better.”

Jeff Ireland
Author: Jeff Ireland