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'SleevesUp-STL' engaging St. Louis County barbershops, hair salons to encourage vaccination

The effort is targeting zip codes where vaccination rates are low

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — St. Louis County Health Department officials are launching a new COVID vaccination effort among people of color next week, and they are enlisting the help of north St. Louis County beauty and barbershops.

SleevesUp-STL is the name of this initiative.

Organizers are asking community members to help distribute accurate COVID vaccine information in their community.

Inside the Mane Coarse Barber Shop, owner Thomas Higdon and his clients discuss a lot more than hairstyles. It is that community connection and familiarity in more than 50 barbershops and beauty salons that St. Louis County Health Department officials are hoping to access with SleevesUp-STL.

St. Louis County Health Department Communications Director Christopher Ave said, “We're asking them to partner with us so that they can disseminate true, factual, scientific information about the COVID 19 vaccines in hopes of encouraging people in those vulnerable communities to get vaccinated.”

Higdon said he believes it’s necessary.

“I just want to be able to give people more solid information, because a lot of people don’t know,” he said. “They’re scared of the vaccine. They’re apprehensive about whether they’re going to get sick or not. That whole Johnson & Johnson scare didn’t help. I just want to be able to give solid, quality information.”

Ave says the health department is targeting zip codes where research shows vaccinations rates are low.

“We understand that people not only have hesitation,” said Ave, “they also have real barriers to getting the vaccine. Our job is to make vaccines as convenient and easy to get as we possibly can.”

Higdon’s talking points are simple.

“Get vaccinated,” he said.

He was asked if he’s hearing a lot of pushback.

“I am,” he said. “a lot of push back from the younger crowd – 30 and under. A lot of pushback. And I think those guys are the guys who need it.”

The St. Louis County Department of Public Health has a COVID hotline, at 314-615-2660. They also have a website dedicated to COVID information.