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Shaves for shots as ‘Vax & Relax’ brings COVID-19 vaccine to Englewood residents: ‘We need this so bad’

Public health officials tried to draw out more residents for COVID-19 vaccinations with free haircuts and Six Flags tickets in Englewood, which has the city’s lowest vaccination rate.

Terrell Hallom, 15, gets a vaccine at Chicago of Public Health’s “Vax and Relax” event at It’s Official Barbershop at 1256 W. 63rd St. on Saturday.
Terrell Hallom, 15, gets a vaccine at Chicago of Public Health’s “Vax and Relax” event at It’s Official Barbershop at 1256 W. 63rd St.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

China Robinson initially was hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But after more than a year of mask-wearing and plenty of time researching the vaccines, Robinson decided it was time to roll up her sleeve and get her shot.

“Just to be free from the mask, know that I’m safe and protecting others, especially my family — this is important to me,” Robinson said.

She was among dozens of people who got inoculated Saturday at “Vax & Relax,” a pop-up vaccination event hosted by the Chicago Department of Public Health at It’s Official Barbershop, 1256 W. 63rd St. in Englewood.

Only about 30% of residents in the neighborhood have gotten a shot, the lowest community vaccination rate in Chicago, according to city data. That’s why officials are trying to entice more people to get the life-saving vaccine. Those who received the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine at Saturday’s event received Six Flags tickets and a free haircut.

Terrell Hallom, 15, who took advantage of the free buzz after getting his jab, said his aunt encouraged him to go. He was pleased the find the inoculation process “painless.”

“It was just in and out, it was fine,” Hallom said. “I feel safe, and it’s great for them to bring vaccinations to the community.”

“Vax & Relax” made the vaccination process easier for people like Mario Hill, who had been eager to get the vaccine, but didn’t want to travel outside Englewood for it.

“It was just convenient. I saw the setup, so I just came over and got vaccinated,” Hill, 36, said from the barber chair. “The more information I got, I was just thinking that it was time to get the shot today.”

“It cuts out trying to find locations,” said Donald Coleman, who co-owns It’s Official Barbershop with his wife, Channal. “If you start in the neighborhood where the people live, then you have a better chance of getting more to come.”

Barber Channal Coleman, left, works on Ruby Gomez’s hair at Chicago of Public Health’s “Vax and Relax” event at It’s Official Barbershop, 1256 W. 63rd St. in Englewood.
Barber Channal Coleman, left, works on Ruby Gomez’s hair at Chicago of Public Health’s “Vax and Relax” event at It’s Official Barbershop, 1256 W. 63rd St. in Englewood.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The effort comes with the state averaging about 36,000 shots administered per day over the past week, a rate that has shrunk by almost half since early May.

Statewide, 68% of adults have gotten at least one dose, and 51% of those 18 or older have been fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. About 11.5 million shots have gone into arms overall across the state, including 55,505 on Friday.

Still, COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are as low as they’ve been since the pandemic hit. Officials reported 538 new cases were diagnosed among 50,827 tests, keeping the average statewide positivity rate at a record low of 1.3%. Hospitals were treating 882 coronavirus patients Friday night, compared to more than 6,000 during the worst days of the crisis.

COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day

Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times

Source: Illinois Department of Public Health

Graph not displaying properly? Click here.

The virus claimed 32 more lives, including a Will County man in his 20s. Illinois’ death toll is up to 22,912 among 1.4 million people who have tested positive since March 2020.

Robinson encouraged anyone who might be wary of getting the vaccine to do their own research and talk to trusted professionals.

“We need this so bad,” Robinson said. “I want to get back to a normal life. I miss working, I miss dogs, I miss seeing people and everybody having their lattes and having a great time, I miss that. I miss life. I’m tired of being in the house.”

For help finding a vaccine appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835. The city is offering in-home vaccinations to any resident 65 or older, as well as those with disabilities or underlying health conditions.

For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.