NORFOLK, Va. — If you stopped by the park at the Oakleaf Forest housing community Wednesday, you’d think it was just one big party.
It featured music, games, and an ice cream truck on the warm spring day.
But the event, coordinated by Hampton University, strived to keep people healthy.
The Hampton University Mobile Vaccination Unit is providing free Pfizer vaccines and COVID-19 testing to three Norfolk housing communities this week, May 25-27.
“To have some sense of self-protection is more important than anything,” said Dr. Aviance Lewis, community engagement coordinator for vaccines at Hampton University.
The clinics are for ages 12 and up and also featured fresh food distributed by Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia. The mobile clinic took place at Calvert Square Center on Tuesday, Oakleaf Forest on Wednesday, and Young Terrace Foodbank Hub on Thursday.
Dr. Lewis said the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority reached out to the university after asking residents what hindered them from getting vaccinated.
“Most were saying transportation issues,” she said. “Others were saying, 'We don’t know how to fill out the form.'”
As mask mandates and coronavirus restrictions end, there is still a push to get people vaccinated, and in some Hampton Roads communities, it is harder for people to get a shot.
The mobile clinics, Dr. Lewis said, eliminate those barriers and give people the opportunity to get easily vaccinated.
“I’m just trying to be safe," said Kevin Ridley, who left work to get his first shot. "I am trying to be obedient with the mask, but I am ready to just be back to some semblance of the way it used to be."
Ridley said his wife told him about the mobile clinic.
“Norfolk has a long way to go in order to ensure that everyone in the city is vaccinated," said Pastor Geoffrey Guns of Second Calvary Baptist Church.
In Norfolk, 31 percent of fully vaccinated people are Black, despite making up 42 percent of the overall population.
Rev. Guns believes misinformation has also played a key role and said it’s up to vaccinated people to encourage others. During the event, Rev. Guns convinced one man to get vaccinated after getting on the phone with his pastor and describing the benefits of the vaccine.
“This is going to come down to going door-to-door and finding people in neighborhoods and finding people to convince to get vaccinated,” Rev. Guns said. “Then they can become community advocates.”
The Mobile Unit will set up at Young Terrace Foodbank Hub on Thursday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. It will return to Oakleaf Forest on June 16 to administer second doses.