Silk Hair Studio becomes touch point for COVID-19 vaccination effort

George Copeland Jr. | 7/29/2021, 6 p.m.
Silk Hair Studio bustled with talk and activity Tuesday afternoon, though not just about hair care and other conversations between …
Joshua Thompson, 14, gets the first shot of the Pfizer vaccine from nurse Christina Carney in a Richmond Health District mobile clinic van on Tuesday. His mother, a registered nurse, brought him to the pop-up vaccination event at Silk Hair Studio on West Broad Street. The salon provided space for people to be registered and to wait during the 15-minute post-vaccination observation period. Photo by Regina H. Boone

Silk Hair Studio bustled with talk and activity Tuesday afternoon, though not just about hair care and other conversations between patrons in dryer chairs.

The salon, located on West Broad Street near the Science Museum of Virginia, served as a walk-up COVID-19 vaccination site for the Richmond and Henrico health districts.

According to co-owner Renada Harris, the salon is one of a thousand similar businesses providing space to reach people where they are in the continuing battle to protect Americans against COVID-19. The Richmond salon was part of a nationwide effort spearheaded by the Biden administration to transition from large vaccination events to smaller sites to better reach the unvaccinated. African-American barber shops and hair salons like Silk Hair Studio were highlighted as a key part of this initiative because of their connections to their communities and their ability to advocate for inoculation.

Ms. Harris said she was very interested in doing what she could to help the effort to shore up the community’s well-being against the virus.

“We’re just trying to do our part with getting the community vaccinated,” said Ms. Harris, whose salon adheres to many safety guidelines to protect its customers and stylists. The staff also is nearly fully vaccinated, with only two people not get- ting inoculated because of pre-existing medical conditions, Ms. Harris said.

On Tuesday, a room in the salon building was used to register people who wanted a vaccine. The patients would then be taken to a health department van parked in the alley outside where they were given the shot. They would return to the building to wait during the 15 minute observation period after the vaccine dose.

Those present created a friendly, laid-back atmosphere, with Richmond and Henrico health district staff, volunteers and patients freely conversing during the two-hour event.

While five to 50 people were expected for the clinic, Catherine Long, the health districts’ public information officer, said Wednesday that six people were vaccinated.

“The pop-up events are much smaller but are so critical because they bring access to folks who may be experiencing homelessness, language barriers or other forms of inaccessibility,” Ms. Long stated.

The salon is among many pop-up clinics planned for the “Summer of Vax” initiative by the health district at convenient points in the city to allow for greater access to the vaccine by the underserved community. This method so far has allowed the health district to provide vaccinations to the homeless, the elderly and those who simply walk past the pop-up sites and decide to finally get vaccinated.

“It’s not so much about the numbers,” said Julie Moon, a registered nurse who has been a part of the health districts’ vaccination efforts for months. “We’re doing places that people normally wouldn’t go to get a vaccine.”

Among those seizing the opportunity Tuesday was Joshua Thompson, a 14-year-old incoming freshman at Highland Springs High School in Henrico County.

He received his first dose of the two-part Pfizer vaccine at the event after his mother, Yolanda Thompson, a registered nurse, learned about the pop-up event at the salon online.

The moment had been a long time in the making, according to Ms. Thompson. She said Joshua had been eager to be vaccinated, but she had concerns about the vaccine’s possible side effects on younger children. She was vaccinated in January.

Both were pleased that they took advantage of the opportunity on Tuesday.

“I wanted to get the vaccine because I want to be protected,” Joshua said. “I wish I could get the second dose right now.”

Information about upcoming walk-up vaccination clinics is available on the Richmond City Health District’s website at www.rchd.com.