PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Maryland (FOX 5 DC) – For years barber Mike Brown has given fades and shapes to clients who have become family at the Shop Hair Spa in Hyattsville, but now he’s giving facts about the COVID-19 vaccine in what the Biden administration considers it a national model for increasing immunization rates among communities of color.
Ten years ago, Brown became involved with the Advocates for Health Research and Intervention Campaign (HAIR), a partnership with the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
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From his chair, he struck up conversations with clients about health issues prevalent in the black community, including initially colorectal cancer, which took away Brown’s father.
“I was totally on board because it took my dad away from me. My dad raised me. It was just me and my dad,” Brown said.
Now the focus is on the COVID-19 vaccine and tackling hesitation with people customers trust.
“Now it’s the difficult task of answering the questions people ask and that’s what we did. We took the time to answer their questions without disrespecting them. We took the time to treat them with dignity and respect, “said Dr Stephen Thomas, professor at the UMD School of Public Health and developer of the HAIR program.
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Brown said he had spoken to many customers about the vaccine. Some shared misinformation or were unsure why they said they weren’t going to take the hit. But it’s his job to provide the facts.
“As they keep coming, they have to sit in my chair because they are my clients, so every week that you come you will hear a little more until we get to where we need to be. “Brown said.
The White House announced Wednesday that it will support a national program like the one happening at the Hyattsville store to increase vaccination rates in hard-to-reach communities and help meet President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of adults in ‘by July 4th.
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Ultimately, 1,000 hair salons and barbershops are expected to join a program called Shots at the Shop, which will train stylists to educate people about vaccines and may even include in-store vaccination clinics.
The program is a partnership between the Maryland Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland, the Black Coalition Against COVID and beauty brand SheaMoisture, which will provide a stipend of $ 1,000 to each store involved.
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The Shop Hair Spa held a vaccination clinic last month that those involved in the program described as a success. 35 people received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.