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Grassroots effort gearing up in Phoenix to improve vaccination numbers among Latino community

A Valley beauty salon was turned into a vaccination site in effort to increase distribution among the Latino community.

PHOENIX — A Phoenix beauty salon transformed into a COVID-19 vaccination distribution site, in an effort to increase immunization numbers among the Latino community.

For 11 years Georgina Zelaya Guerra’s beauty salon, Vicky’s, located near 31st Avenue and Van Buren Street, has been serving the community.

During the height of the pandemic in 2020, Vicky’s had to close for two months.

“We lost so many friends, so many people, we lost customers too,” said Guerra who also lost family members to the deadly virus. “We [felt] like we needed to do something for the community.”

With the help of Arizona Complete Health, Adelante Healthcare, The Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and other local groups, Vicky’s was transformed into a vaccination pop-up event.

The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines were all available to be administered.

Leading up to the event, Guerra and her hairdressers took on a new role to get each of their clients that weren’t vaccinated a dose.

“Every day when a customer came to us and cut their hair, we talked to them and said, ‘Did you [get] your vaccine already?'” Guerra said. “A lot of customers told me no, they don’t want it because they don’t believe or trust it.”

In total, 19 people were immunized, in part thanks to volunteers who even went to nearby businesses and pushed clients there to get their dose, like Mario Mendez who was getting food at Tortas Paquime with a friend.

“I did have the intention, but I didn’t know where or how to get vaccinated,” Mendez said. “Time was also a factor, so that’s why I waited to get it.”

Other clients that got their doses at last Saturday’s event were 21-year-old Rigoberto Fernandez and his father.

“I have a lot of coworkers that had told me to get the vaccine and I told them I was just waiting, but I got it now,” Fernandez said.

Throughout the years of service, there’s a special bond that has grown between clients and employees at Vicky’s, Guerra said.

Guerra said she thinks a common culture and language made the event successful. 

Guerra was 18 years old when she migrated to the U.S. and put herself through barber school to open her business. She said her clients know that.

"Having that connection with them, and doing events at the businesses they most frequent, is the key to improving the vaccination numbers among the Latino community," Guerra said.

Local organizations and State Representatives like Diego Espinoza told 12 News they are working to do similar events in other parts of the Valley.

Although she took a financial loss by closing her salon on the busiest day of the week, Guerra said it was worth it.

“I feel like if we do something for the community, we don’t care about the money, because in that situation [if sick], the money is not important and won’t matter,” Guerra said.

COVID-19 Vaccine

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