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Norfolk barber, pastor hope shop owners encourage COVID-19 vaccinations for Black communities

Early this month, the White House announced an initiative that asked barbershops and salons to help get Americans vaccinated.

NORFOLK, Va. — Junius Thompson, owner of Kappatal Cuts in Norfolk, said he’s been surprised by the amount of pushback he’s heard about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

He’s been vaccinated, and wants to help more Black people in Hampton Roads become confident in the shot.  

“The barber has the ear of the client," said Thompson. 

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced an initiative seeking the help of barbershops and salons in his push to get 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4.

Health experts predict Biden will fall short of that goal. As of Friday, 65 percent of adults had received at least one shot of COVID-19 vaccine, according to CDC data. Meanwhile, 69.6% of Virginian adults have received at least one dose.  

Thompson signed up his shop once he found out about the program, but he said that wasn't until Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Guns, pastor of Second Calvary Baptist Church, told him last week.

“There is a real need to get people vaccinated in our community," said Guns, pastor of Second Calvary Baptist Church in Norfolk.

Guns is concerned about vaccination numbers in Norfolk communities with higher Black populations. 

According to the VDH, nearly 15% of people with at least one dose are Black. 

“People need information, and what better place to give a whole demographic information than at a barbershop," he said. 

The White House initiative hoped to partner with at least 1000 barbers and salons across the country for vaccination efforts. 

The Shots at the Shops initiative partners with Black Coalition Against COVID-19 and Shea Moisture to provide training and resources to become community health champions. 

Thompson was concerned more barbers were unaware.

“We have to believe that this is something that’s good for all of us," said Thompson.  

Salons and Barbershops can register their businesses for the initiative here

Thompson and Guns hope more shop owners join the push to boost confidence in the city, and Thompson wants to use his location as a vaccination site or host a mobile vaccination clinic. 

Recently, Dr. Parham Jaberi, interim director for Norfolk and Virginia VDH, said said the statewide strategy has switched from mass vaccination clinics to smaller mobile clinics in communities where numbers are low.