Hampton Roads funeral directors have a message for the African American community: Please get your vaccination


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — It’s an unusual and urgent appeal, and it comes from two businessmen who had been content to remain behind the scenes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mark E. Fisher, who owns funeral homes in Newport News and Petersburg, and Rev. Christopher Carter, a local pastor and owner of C.C. Carter Funeral Home in Newport News, both have seen a direct impact on their businesses due to the coronavirus.

“The numbers have really spiked, and it started around last February, early March,” Fisher said. “I have embalmed probably about 140 COVID cases. We even did it for other funeral homes that were afraid to do that work.”

Rev. Carter says he’s experienced a similar jump in the number of calls from grieving families needing to bury a loved one.

“We don’t want to see what we saw last year with loved ones, friends, and community leaders falling by the wayside due to this travesty and this virus.”

Rev. Carter says he got his vaccination last February, and since, has heard members of his congregation voice some concern about getting the shot. The Virginia Health Department recently reported only about 15% of African Americans in Virginia had received the vaccine.

“I noticed a lot of people have heard a lot of innuendos and concerns about it. I’ve taken it! Been fully vaccinated,” Carter says.

“I haven’t heard of a lot of people who have died from getting the vaccination. I have heard of a lot of people who have died who have not gotten the vaccination,” says fellow Newport News Pastor Kevin Swann, of Ivy Baptist Church:

“What we’re also now seeing is that younger African Americans are also getting sick and also are dying,
from COVID,” Swann says.

They all say they’ll continue to urge young adult African Americans to get the protection, if not for themselves, for their loved ones.

“In the African American community, we have to step our game up,” Rev. Carter says.

Fisher agrees: “We need everyone to get vaccinated. They need to see the importance of it.”

Hampton University’s Mobile Health Unit is providing the Pfizer vaccine to those 12 and older on Friday
from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at New Grafton Baptist Church on Chestnut Avenue near 44th Street in Newport News. Walk-ups are accepted.

Correction: The original version of this story included incorrect information about the percentage of the Black population that had been vaccinated. As of July 9, Black Virginians made up 16.1% of the total number of vaccines administered in the state. The percentage of the Black population that is vaccinated with at least one dose was 38.9% as of that date.

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