NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Just a few hours before October’s sunset over Norfolk’s Young Terrace community, Dr. Geoffrey Guns, pastor of Second Calvary Baptist Church, and his vaccination team marshaled with a sense of urgency in the public housing neighborhood just outside downtown Norfolk.
After presiding over her funeral, Guns partnered with the Norfolk Health Department and Sentara Healthcare to go door to door every Thursday afternoon to vaccinate the hesitant.
“Some people are hesitant because they are simply afraid. Others are hesitant because they have been fed a lot of misinformation; a lot of things that are not true,” said Guns.
“When we first began, we had only one person we were able to vaccinate that day. But over the last several months, we have seen a steady increase and we are averaging 18 to 20 appointments every week,” said an ebullient Guns.
The team includes Greg Johnston of Urban Discovery Ministry, who joins Guns and church members on Wednesdays to canvass the neighborhood. Sentara nurse Denise Lassiter, a woman Guns says is reminiscent of your favorite school cafeteria helper, made the difference.
“Make sure you keep that [vaccine card] in a safe place and you’ll have it when I come back,” said Lassiter after gingerly vaccinating a first-time arm. When Lassiter scheduled a patient’s second shot, the patient announced that day is his birthday.
Without missing a beat, Lassiter quipped “Well, I’ll have a really good present for [second shot] you on your birthday. Guns says Lassiter is just what the team needed when they contacted Sentara for help.”
“She’s able to kind of talk to them — mother them — and it really makes a difference,” said Guns.
Since August, the team has put 124 shots in arms in the door-to-door campaign in Young Terrace.
A breast cancer survivor put her fears aside and rolled up her sleeve.
“I was in stage three cancer and at first I didn’t want to get it. I just heard a lot of bad rumors,” said Shroxie Reese.
First-time shot recipient Taquon Reynolds gave the process two thumbs up.
“The shot did not hurt at all. They are going to talk you through it and let you know the pros and cons. For example, you may have a little numbness or something like that. I get my second shot in three weeks and I’ll see y’all again,” said an enthusiastic Reynolds.
Neighbor Larry is proud of his vaccine conversion.
“I was one of the ones saying I wasn’t going to get the shot, but at the end of the day, I want to live and I want everybody else to live so I got the shot,” he said.
The shot team returns next week.
“This is really very important and it’s important that we be in this neighborhood helping people get vaccinated,” said Guns.
Guns estimates hundreds more are unvaccinated in the three public housing neighborhoods just outside downtown Norfolk.
Additionally, his church, located at 2940 Corprew Avenue in Norfolk, is hosting vaccination clinics every Thursday, 4-7 p.m. through Nov. 18. For more information, contact the church at 757-627-7222.
Correction: In the on-air version of this story, the neighborhood in this story was incorrectly identified. The correct neighborhood is Young Terrace. WAVY regrets the error.