Shampoo, cut, COVID-19 chat: Partnership gives salons tools to inform

Owner Dina Tillman doing interviews at the salon Hello Bonita during Friday’s vaccine clinic. (Courtesy Kaiser Permanente)
The vaccine clinic at Hello Bonita was open to anyone in the community. The person receiving vaccine here happens to be a community health worker. (Kaiser Permanente)
The vaccine clinic at Hello Bonita was open to anyone in the community. The person receiving vaccine here happens to be a community health worker. (Courtesy Kaiser Permanente)

Hair care workers are receiving training for COVID-19 informed conversations in their salons and barber shops through a Maryland GoVAX partnership with Kaiser Permanente. The program was announced Friday.

In an effort to increase vaccinations in Black and Hispanic communities, Kaiser Permanente’s Good Health & Great Hair program partnership with the Maryland Department of Health will include training, outreach and vaccine clinics at participating businesses in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Baltimore City.

“I am excited to be involved with the COVID vaccine program because so many Latinos are not getting vaccinated,” said Dina Rodriguez Tillman, owner of the Hello Bonita salon in Baltimore City.

“One of my biggest goals is that anyone who is undocumented, and they’re not comfortable with getting their vaccine, feel comfortable enough to come here and receive their vaccine; anyone who is on the fence about the vaccine or has fear, I want to help take away the fear and be able to provide them with facts so that they will come down and get vaccinated,” she said.

Several of the 46 businesses in the member network have already received training covering general COVID-19 information, vaccine safety, how to build confidence in the vaccine and how to advocate for your health during a pandemic.

“So, you come into the salon and it’s not like, ‘Oh, did you get your vaccine?’ It’s more like, you know, having a conversation with your girlfriend about why we need to do this,” said Dr. Eddye Bullock, Kaiser Permanente’s assistant chief for adult family medicine for Baltimore.

“We trained leaders in the community to feel competent having conversations with people who may come into the salon, or family members or friends who may be hesitant to get the COVID vaccine who have heard misinformation through other friends or social media, to how to overcome those types of barriers and to provide information so people can make healthy decisions, correct decisions for their health,” she said.

Tillman said as someone working in a business that doesn’t allow social distancing, it’s in her own best interest to promote members of the community getting vaccinated. She has children at home and doesn’t want them to get sick. She can’t afford to take time off work if she gets sick. And, there’s the risk of people dying.

“What I’d like to emphasize is — I’m vaccinated. I’m hoping that the people in my community get vaccinated; I want them to keep themselves safe,” Tillman said. “And, this is important to me for the Latin community. To make sure that they’re getting vaccinated. We get together on a regular basis. We live together in a tight-knit community. We have to take care of each other and ourselves.”

Before the pandemic-related expansion, Kaiser Permanente’s Good Health & Great Hair program has gone to barber shops and salons providing preventive care, vaccinations, cancer screenings and blood pressure screenings.

The partnership with the Maryland’s GoVAX initiative will extend over the next year; it continues to recruit new barber shop and salon members, as well as churches and nonprofits.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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