By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — More than a dozen barber shops in Minnesota are participating in a federal initiative to engage Black-owned businesses in supporting local vaccine education and outreach efforts.

Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday that 14 barber shops are participating in the “Shots at the Shop” campaign, a White House-led effort that is working with 1,000 barbershops and beauty salons across the country.

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The initiative gives a small grant to participating businesses and trains barbers and stylists on how to provide information about the vaccine to their clients.

Some shops are offering free shots, including one barbershop in the Twin Cities: Wilson’s Image Barbers & Stylists in north Minneapolis. Walk-ins are welcome.

“The COVID-19 vaccines save lives and every conversation that shares that message matters,” said the governor, in a statement. “Anyone can be a strong advocate for these vaccines — whether you’re a doctor advising patients, a sibling talking to a loved one, or a barber cutting your neighbor’s hair.”

Since early on in the state’s vaccine rollout, health officials have been working to persuade members of the Black community to get the shots. Many in the community are hesitant to get the vaccine or mistrust the medical community due to past experimentation on Black people.

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According to state statistics, just over 50% of Black Minnesotans 12 and older are currently vaccinated. That figure is lower than the vaccination rates for white, Hispanic and Asian Minnesotans.

Dr. Nathan Chomilo, Minnesota’s COVID-19 vaccine equity director, says that barber shops are places people go to and talk about their lives. He says that they can also be a space where Black Minnesotans talk about their health.

“For those who have yet to get their COVID-19 shot, we need to continue to show up with reliable information, address their concerns, and then continue to minimize barriers to getting their shot when they are ready,” he said, in a statement.

Currently, about 54% of the state’s total eligible population is fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, across the country, the highly-contagious Delta variant is spreading rapidly, especially among unvaccinated people.

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On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control reversed its mask guidelines, recommending that even fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas where transmissions are high or substantial. Most of Minnesota is currently seeing moderate transmission.