NORFOLK, Va. — The Virginia Department of Health and cities across Virginia are working to close the gap in vaccinating minorities and underserved communities.
They couldn’t do it without neighborhood pharmacies. Peoples Pharmacy in Norfolk is making strides in the effort, owned and operated by an African American woman.
"We are actually, and have always been, about saving lives,” said Peoples Pharmacy owner, Dr. Anna Peoples.
Peoples is leading the vaccination charge in the Huntersville area of Norfolk.
“Unfortunately, our community has been disproportionately affected by the COVID virus and disproportionately dying from it as well,” Peoples said.
She got her hands on the vaccine in February, and has made it the pharmacy’s mission to help stop that trend.
“We have been in this community long enough that we have the trust of the community,” Peoples explained. “They come here for the advice.”
So far, Peoples said she'd vaccinated more than 1,500 people.
She said 89% of those patients were African American.
“Over the age of 65, with one or more chronic care conditions,” Peoples said.
She said her small team keeps busy, averaging about 250 vaccines a week.
“We are one of the few pharmacies that have the J&J brand, so of course our phones are ringing off the hook,” Peoples said.
They also give out the Moderna vaccine.
Peoples has been a pharmacist for almost 40 years. She opened this shop in 2016, striving to personalize the experience.
“You don’t get a recording when you call here, you get a live person,” Peoples said.
Now, staff said being able to give their customers a lifesaving vaccine is more than rewarding.
“We have people that come and say, 'Thank you, you have saved our life,'" said staff member Fletcher Williams. "And I’m like, 'I’m just here to work!' So, it does feel amazing!”
They are even reaching beyond the pharmacy walls.
“Start in April providing immunizations for the churches, at least 600 a week,” Peoples said.
She said they won’t stop until the mission is complete.
“We are going to look good, because everybody in the Hampton Roads area at least, we are going to be vaccinated and we are going to have a big cookout,” Peoples said.
Peoples said people can fill out an application on their website or fill one out in store.