Local pharmacy fights disparities, vaccinates underserved community for COVID-19

Dr. Anna Peoples, Peoples Pharmacy, COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 7:48 AM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 08:48:55-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Dr. Anna Peoples is on a mission.

"[It's] a huge opportunity to save as many lives as possible," she told News 3 at her COVID-19 latest vaccine clinic on Wednesday.

Peoples is a pharmacist who owns the independent Peoples Pharmacy on Church Street in Norfolk.

For the last five years, she's served the Huntersville community's largely minority and low-income population.

The already-vital work at Peoples Pharmacy became even more important in 2020 when COVID-19 struck and began disproportionately affecting Black Americans and other minorities.

"We saw, here, a disproportionate amount of people dying from the virus so we decided to step up and vaccinate as many arms as we can," said Peoples, who received her first shipment of the Moderna vaccine in February.

The numbers show just how critical this work is.

According to the latest data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Black Virginians make up 19 percent of the state's total population, but account for 22 percent of COVID-19 cases and 24 percent of COVID-19 deaths.

However, so far, only 14 percent of people vaccinated for COVID-19 in Virginia and had their race/ethnicity recorded, have been Black.

"Our targeted population has been the minority and African American population," said Peoples.

Through her vaccine clinics, Peoples says she's vaccinated more than 1,800 people so far, many of whom are now getting their second dose.

But she also says there are about 20,000 others living in the surrounding neighborhoods that she still wants to reach. To do that, Peoples Pharmacy is partnering with local churches.

"Pastors I've found are one of the better resources to get the word out to the community, especially those that don't have Internet access," Peoples told News 3. "Churches have buses that they can go pick up their congregants and bring them to a central location so we felt that was also a very good way to reach the population that we're aiming to improve the statistics with."

Those efforts may already be paying off.

"I trust my priest and he recommends this pharmacy," Valda Bowe-Flores told News 3 when she arrived at Peoples Pharmacy for her second Moderna shot.

Others who visited the clinic said they had heard about it from word of mouth from family and friends.

"I gotta take care of myself," said William Whittaker, who also stopped in for his second vaccine. "We got vaccinated when I started school years ago, so let's do it now."

Peoples' challenge is now reaching who don't visit church and largely stay home.

"Everybody doesn't have Internet, everybody doesn't have a car, everybody doesn't have bus fare and a lot of people don't have food," she told News 3. "I think that independent pharmacies all over the city play an important role in providing that service to people that are nearby."

The next COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Peoples Pharmacy is scheduled for Friday. Dr. Peoples says she will be giving out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.