Mike Brown is an African-American barber in a Washington suburb of the United States, fighting misinformation about covid-19 vaccines.
He doesn’t have to step out of his office to do this. Brown allays fears of his customers while making them look dapper with his clippers.
Misconceptions around the vaccine seem to be growing within the African-American community.
Armed with statistics, data and quotes from experts, Brown stands ready to debunk the conspiracy theories his clients have about the vaccines.
African-Americans make up just under half of the population in Washington, where Brown’s ''shop hair spa'' is located. The city accounts for some 75 percent of covid-19 fatalities. The alarming figure is of a huge concern to the 49-year old barber.
"A lot of the Black people in the community, they don't trust the corporate-level pharmaceutical companies. That's the reason why they won’t, you know, they won't really go to a doctor or see a doctor until their arm is about to fall off. They’re just misled by misinformation. When you ask them questions like, my favorite one, how I address the cient is: 'If the vaccination is plan A to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and you don't want to take it, what's your plan B, scientifically speaking, that's going to stop the spread of it?' And they can never answer the question", Brown said.
Kendrick Furbush, a barbershop client is one of such recipients of the misinformation about the vaccines.
"I'm not much of a social media guy, but I tend to do it just because this is way now, it's what's going on. So me watching it, I've seen crazy posts, like, people who take vaccine their faces leaning to the side, and people look sick or just faint. Seeing things like that kind of had me like, 'Okay, maybe this isn't real. Maybe this is - this is just a test, just to run different trials and error to see whether or not, which vaccine is the best", the 24-year old said.
Historically, discrimination against black people in the United States has led to mistrust in the health system.
It's not clear the number of black people used for the vaccine trial in the States. Despite the precedent, Bryan Ayers, 49, is on the pragmatic side.
"I'm on that side of the pragmatic side. You know, I know the historical issues that we faced, but with this being a worldwide pandemic, it's not like someone was focusing on the Black community and saying, 'We're coming after you with this virus", Ayers said.
After Brown’s father passed away to a long illness, he joined forces with a doctor to help prevent colon cancer and heart disease. Today, his efforts at debunking the misinformation about the vaccines are yielding results. Three of his vaccine-skeptical clients have since gone to get jabbed.