Cleveland barbershop hosts COVID-19 vaccination clinics to reach minority communities

Cleveland barbershop hosting COVID-19 vaccination clinics to reach minority communities
Posted at 4:42 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 19:08:54-04

CLEVELAND — According to ABC’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker, Ohio's total vaccination rate dropped 15% percent last week.

Only 17,000 more Ohioans have started the vaccination process, and a third of all Ohioans are now fully vaccinated.

Governor Mike DeWine said now's the time to bring the shots to the people to keep those numbers going up and get us closer to herd immunity.

Urban Kutz Barbershop is doing just that by partnering with the Cleveland Department of Public Health to host two vaccine clinics this month.

“A lot of conversations we've had here are that a lot of people don't want the vaccine because quite honestly, they don't trust the government,” owner Waverly Willis said.

Now, minority communities -- which were already getting vaccinated at a lower rate than white ones -- are slipping further behind for a number of reasons besides just hesitancy.

“It's a forgotten population, not everyone understands technology, not everyone has the patience to navigate the booking process, not everyone has a smartphone,” Willis said. “Some people have a flip phone. Some people have no phones at all, and not everyone even understands English well. We have a lot of people in this area from all over the country.”

So Willis is teaming up with CDPH to host two vaccine clinics at both of his barbershop locations starting this Saturday, May 8.

Folks will be able to walk-in without an appointment and get the Pfizer vaccine.

Their goal is 100 shots at both clinics.

“We know barbershops, historically have been places where men would go and have these private conversations just between men and so this is an opportunity to really explore that and see if that will help,” Brian Kimball, interim director of CDPH, said.

Kimball said they saw similar hesitancy at the beginning of their vaccination efforts, but saw how effective having those conversations were.

“What we saw early on in administering vaccines was the same type of hesitancy, and then once their buddies got vaccinated, they began to get vaccinated so we're hoping we will follow that same trend with this population that’s hard to reach,” Kimball said.

Willis plans to operate his shop as usual on Saturday, giving haircuts while another area will be cleared out for vaccinations. Then, after getting the shot people can head next door to the neighboring coffee shop for the fifteen minute waiting period required after the shot. Waverly said he will pay for people’s drinks and pastries.

“I think being here among the people all day every day gives a lot of credibility to the people that are giving the vaccine. My people know that if they're coming into my shop that it's legit,” Willis said.

The first vaccine clinic at Urban Kutz Barbershop will be on May 8 at its Detroit Avenue location (11106 Detroit Avenue) from noon to 4:30 p.m. The second clinic will be on May 15 at its Pearl Road location (4491 Pearl Road) also from noon to 4:30 p.m.

Anyone who gets a first shot will be scheduled to receive their second shot at the same location three weeks later.

Kimball said CDPH will work to ensure people show up for their second shot.

“So really having those types of conversations, staying in contact with them, making sure we connect with them before the second shot comes up. We want to just make sure we have that open line of communication to improve, to make sure that we reach those that are kind of hesitant about even a second shot,” Kimball said.

In addition to the clinics at Urban Kutz, the city is hosting more walk-in clinics at local churches and schools starting Wednesday, May 5. More information can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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