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'I am safe': West Charlotte salon owner promotes vaccinations with help from NC state leaders

West Charlotte has some of the lowest vaccination rates in Mecklenburg County. A longtime business owner is hoping to encourage more people the shot is safe.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — President Joe Biden's visit to North Carolina Thursday is meant to encourage more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine as we move closer to the Fourth of July — and the deadline for his goal to have 70% of American adults vaccinated

Part of Biden's action plan to try and get there is partnering with barbershops and salons to engage customers and host on-site clinics. One Charlotte salon owner is eager to participate and raise awareness about vaccinations in his neighborhood. 

In west Charlotte, there's a lower vaccination rate for COVID-19 but there's also a sense of community and trust inside Marco Studio Salon where customers come for much more than a cut and color. The owner hopes that closeness will encourage more people to get vaccinated.

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"My customers are like my family," said owner Marco Astopilco. 

RELATED: North Carolina expands COVID-19 vaccine $25 cash card program

He's been in business off Old Pineville Road for 25 years. Much of the surrounding community and some of his clients still haven't been vaccinated and now the state is stepping in to help. It's all part of a nationwide effort to make the shots easily accessible in places people feel comfortable. 

"We chose his salon because he knows people in the community well and is a very trustworthy person, so whatever Marco says, people come," said Yvette Broussard with Symmetry Behavioral Health Systems. 

Now, Marco is handing out educational materials and talking to the clients in his chairs, hoping more people will decide to get the shot. 

"Look at me, how I am, I am safe, looking at everybody else they're safe," Astopilco said. "Look how comfortable they are, we don't use the masks, and the next day they call me and say, 'hey, I'm ready.'"

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And when they're ready, all they have to do is come back to Marco's salon. They've already hosted one successful vaccine clinic and will have another one next week. Each person who gets vaccinated is one step closer to normal for Marco and his community. 

"The touch of people, family, that's what I missed a lot and I want to protect them," he said. 

Next week's vaccination event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The clinic will offer the Moderna vaccine, as well as the Johnson & Johnson shot, and it's open to everyone. 

Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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