"It was a good thing, and so I was grateful."
Health disparities are a major problem in today's world. UPMC strives to improve health equity in the communities we serve — including taking care directly to communities in need.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on underserved communities. One major problem involved access to the COVID-19 vaccine. So, UPMC teamed up with many different organizations to provide vaccine clinics in underserved communities.
In June 2021, UPMC and Tenel D. — a western Pennsylvania hair salon owner — teamed up for a vaccine clinic at Tenel's salon. It was the first vaccine clinic held at a hair salon in Pittsburgh.
The idea behind the clinics was to remove barriers to care and provide the vaccine in a place where community members felt comfortable. UPMC connected with Tenel through her church, and she agreed to host the clinic at her salon.
"Beauty shops and barber shops, that's like an intimate space where people feel at home," Tenel says. "We were the first ones to do this, and it was amazing. It really was."
People from throughout the community came out for the clinic, which was open to people 12 and older.
"It was a good thing, and so I was grateful," Tenel says. "And I'm still grateful."
Vaccine hesitancy was another issue in minority communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tenel says she encountered many people who were hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of the Tuskegee Experiment and other issues. She also didn't think she needed the vaccine herself — but on the day of the clinic at her salon, Tenel got the shot.
"This vaccination is not going to kill you, and that's what it was," she says. "I was like the poster child for it for a minute — like, look, I'm alive. I didn't die.
"If it's going to prevent the spread of it, whatever I could do. I have so many clients, and then some older clients. Let me just try to at least do something proactive to where I can feel like I'm protecting my clients."
UPMC held many similar vaccine clinics throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to bring the vaccine to people who needed it most.
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Working in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh and a wide range of community organizations, we are committed to improving the health of the communities we serve.
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