St. Louis County partners with barbershops, salons to raise vaccination rates

Missouri

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Beginning this week, more than 50 barbershops and beauty salons in St. Louis County are partnering with the health department in an innovative effort to get more people vaccinated.

County Executive Dr. Sam Page acknowledged the new Sleeves Up STL Initiative is imperative to raising vaccination rates among St. Louis County residents. The county health department is hoping to relay information through local barbershops and salons and set up vaccination sites starting Monday.

“Watching numbers spike again and hearing the conversations in the barbershop, it’s very important to make sure that members of my community are getting vaccinated,” said Thomas Higdon, owner of Mane Coarse Barbershop in St. Ann. “This is not a joke.”

Higdon works hands-on with hundreds of people in his community and hears their concerns about COVID-19 and the vaccine.

“They’re a little apprehensive. They’re a little nervous. The Johnson & Johnson scare didn’t help,” he said. “People don’t really trust vaccines for good reasons, but it’s basically a trust issue and I’m trying to bring new and clear information to clear it up.”

Christopher Ave, a spokesman for the St. Louis County Health Department, said Sleeves Up STL is a great way to target zip codes with low vaccination rates – predominately black and brown communities.

“We see the elementary school kids. We see the single moms. We see the pastors. We see literally everyone who comes and gets a haircut, so I’m sure this is the one place we can reach out and (get) information readily available to them,” Higdon said. “The barbershop is the place.”

Higdon comes from a family of medical professionals and strongly believes vaccination is the way to keep our communities and the people we love safe. He said if there’s one place where all people feel safe and welcomed, it’s their local barbershop.

“This is probably the best way to get ground level to reach all kind of people in our neighborhoods,” he said.

The county executive fully supports the effort.

“We recognize that… we have to turn that around,” Page said.

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