With new COVID-19 delta variant spreading, communities scramble to vaccinate

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With the new more contagious delta variant of the COVID-19 virus spreading, communities with low vaccination rates are trying to get creative to get more shots into people's arms.

At Cornerstone Baptist Church in Brooklyn, they postponed prayer services inside the century old building during the pandemic. Instead, they're now holding vaccination clinics inside.

"A ventilator? Or a vaccine? It's not a hard choice," Reverend Lawrence Aker said.

Rev. Aker is praying more people take advantage of the vaccine clinics -- and it appears it could be working.

RELATED | Delta Variant: What New Yorkers need to know
EMBED More News Videos

Dr. Jay Varma, infectious disease specialist, and NYC Health Commissioner, Dr. Dave Chokshi, discuss what New Yorkers need to know about the emerging Delta variant.

The church's zip code hit a 50% vaccination rate this week, which is up from just two weeks ago.

He's still trying to persuade the other half of the population to get vaccinated, but it hasn't been easy.

"I think it gets back to hesitancy and distrust, and hopefully we're trying to dispel all of that," he said. "It's disappointing, but I understand, historically, when we think about the anthology of America and we think about the Tuskegee experiment from the 1930s to 1970s, and you think about other experiments that have gone wrong with people of color, that's responsible for a lot of the hesitancy."

RELATED | Notorious Tuskegee study has lessons for COVID era, new film shows
EMBED More News Videos

"We have to bring something good from something that happened that was so evil," said the daughter of one Tuskegee study participant.

A 7 On Your Side Investigation earlier this month found about a dozen zip codes in the New York City area where less than a third of the population were vaccinated.

Now, two weeks later, the numbers are creeping higher.

Just five zip codes with only a third of the population vaccination are left on the list in Brooklyn and Queens: 11691, 11219, 11210, 11236, 11233.

"It's a small victory every time one person comes in, and I see them get the vaccine and leave," said EMT Ian Tomaschik, who has been vaccinating people across the New York City area. "You know, it's just another drop of water."

It's an even bigger concern with the new, more contagious delta variant of the virus spreading.

"I think we should absolutely be concerned about the variant," said Dr. Edward Telzak, of St. Barnabas Hospital.

In the local area with the lowest vaccination rate -- Far Rockaway Queens -- there's only one hospital for the entire peninsula.

They've created a mobile doctor's office on wheels, and they're driving it to where people are living.

"People tend to trust you a little bit more when you come into their community and provide that one on one comfort," said Dr. Donald Morrish, of St. John's Episcopal Hospital.

DO YOU NEED A STORY INVESTIGATED? Dan Krauth and the 7 On Your Side Investigates team at Eyewitness News want to hear from you! Call our confidential tip line 1-877-TIP-NEWS (847-6397) or fill out the form BELOW. You can also contact Dan Krauth directly:

Email your questions, issues, or story ideas to 7OnYourSideDan@abc.com

Facebook: DanKrauthReports

Twitter: @ DanKrauthABC7

Instagram: @DanKrauth
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.