PETERSBURG – President Joe Biden unveiled plans Wednesday to recruit 1,000 Black-owned barbershops and salons to provide “Shots at the Shop” and promote the nationwide vaccination effort.
The administration is teaming up with the Black Coalition Against COVID, the University of Maryland Center for Health Equity, and SheaMoisture to engage Black-owned barbershops and beauty salons across the country as a means to coordinate vaccine education and outreach efforts.
This outreach comes as a means to have 70% of the U.S. population at least partially vaccinated by July 4.
Other elements of the national campaign include free childcare for parents who want to get vaccinated, keeping pharmacies open for 24 hours on Fridays and partnering with mayors to see which city can grow its vaccination rate the fastest. Some professional sports leagues are planning to offer vaccines at their competitions, while Anheuser-Busch announced free beer for vaccinated adults ages 21 years and older on July 4.
Petersburg is currently lagging behind the state’s average vaccination rate of 55% of people who have at least one does. Only about 39% of Petersburg residents have gotten at least one vaccine does as of June 2.
There have been a few local efforts to try and boost these vaccination numbers. A grant from the Cameron Foundation helped Crater Health District hire more healthcare workers to aid in vaccine availability. Virginia State University also unveiled a mobile vaccination bus to target hard-to-reach areas of the population.
More:VSU will roll out mobile vaccination clinics to locations across the area starting Wednesday
More:Cameron Foundation grant targets under-vaccinated areas in the Crater Region
More:Vaccinate Petersburg to put shots in resident’s arms in the comfort of their own home
Petersburg has one of the 10 worst case rates per 100,000 residents in Virginia. So far, the city has had 3,914 confirmed cases, 165 hospitalizations and 86 deaths to the coronavirus though this week has shown a record-low in case rates statewide.
Amid a national push to get vaccinated, Biden said that the country is in a vastly different place than it was the summer before and that every American should have the right to get vaccinated.
But what do local barbershops think about taking part in the President’s initiative to spread the word about vaccine promotion?
Samuel Cole has owned Salon 22 on S. Crater Road since 2018. He ended up shutting down his salon for several months during the pandemic resulting in a big monetary hit for his business. At this stage he says that a public-facing business like his offers too many interactions that could cause people to get sick, especially because his salon has many older clients.
“The reality is easy transference,” Cole said. “Ideally, we want to make sure that all our clients are safe. I know they’re doing contact tracing but you just don’t know.”
Cole says he knows a lot of people who have doubts about the vaccine and admits to having his own doubts about getting it in the beginning. He was hesitant at the thought of a shot that was developed much quicker than the initial projections’ timeframe. Ultimately, he kept up with national news and saw enough people getting the vaccine to be convinced it was safe enough.
“Like small pox or measles, it’s just something we have to do. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the long haul but it’s important in the immediate,” he said.
Cole’s says his salon will continue to protect its clientele by following safety measures and mask-wearing, despite mask mandates having been lifted. He says he talks often with people who are still hesitant about getting vaccinated and tries to explain why its important.
“People have their setbacks about it, but it’s something that we need to do,” Cole said. “I try not to get into arguments, people can get really upset, but I don’t shy away from it.”
Cole says he would be willing to take part in a national effort that helps spread a message about the importance of vaccines.
Calvin McIntyre has owned Styles and Beyond, a barbershop on S. Crater Road, for the past 19 years. He also owns a gym which is connected to the barbershop. Though he has two public-facing businesses, he says he has been diligent about keeping up with safety protocols required for both, and just got the second dose of the Moderna vaccine on June 2.
Despite the number of cases dropping and mask mandates being lifted, McIntyre still operates his barbershop by appointment only, and locks the front door to keep his clientele safe from anyone who could spread the virus. As the owner of a gym, he said he especially wants to be cautious to protect the fair number of elderly customers he has.
But when it comes to actually promoting the message of vaccines in his community, McIntyre says he would rather remain neutral. Though he decided to get vaccinated and continues using safety measures, McIntyre says that others have the right to make their own decision about being vaccinated.
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