One year after losing father to Covid-19, Russell Copeland gets vaccinated, spreads the word

Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 8:19 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - 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.

Founder 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, founded the coalition. She teamed up with Dr. Nancy Hooks and 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. 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. You can call (662) 401-9573 to find out where the next mobile vaccination site will take place.

Dr. Nancy Hooks also vaccinates every Wednesday at Hooks Diabetes and Medicine Clinic.

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