NEW ORLEANS — There was a brass band playing outside the Ashe’ Cultural Arts Center in Central City as people lined up for a COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.
A food truck handed out fish fry plates to everyone who got a shot.
Larry Johnson said he appreciated the festive experience even though he’s afraid of needles.
"I didn’t need the motivation, but it was good,” Johnson said. “I think everybody needs to come out and get their vaccination so we can all return to some sense of normalcy.”
Mona George came in for a shot and left with lunch.
“It’s so New Orleans,” George said. “Some good food, listen to the music and have a great day.”
New Orleans East Hospital provided the shots.
Hospital CEO Dr. Takeisha Charles Davis says they will do whatever it takes to meet community members where they live and convince them to get vaccinated.
“We’re out here today to say if not to protect yourself, protect your grandmother, your nanny, your parrain, those that you love so that you can get back to having Easter crawfish boils with them, so you can have the Friday catfish fries with them,” Dr. Davis said. “You need to get vaccinated.”
There is some vaccine hesitancy in the New Orleans’ African American community.
City-data shows while black residents make up 60 percent of the population, they account for only 45 percent of vaccinations.
“We know that this vaccine is safe,” Dr. Davis said. “We know that it’s effective. We know that black and brown people are dying at a higher rate from COVID-19.”
Ashe’ CEO Asali Devan Ecclisiastes said she knows some people are skeptical, but COVID is a lot more worrisome than the shot.
“We’re ready to have you all back up in this space,” Ecclisiastes said. “We what some music. We want some plays. We want some poetry. In order for you all to do that, we have to be safe and protected.”
About 22 percent of the New Orleans population has been vaccinated so far. That’s way below the 70 to 90 percent needed to reach herd immunity which would squash community spread of the Coronavirus.
New Orleans health officials say right now, the vaccine supply is plentiful.
They admit, the biggest hurdle in the coming months will be convincing residents who are hesitant to get the shot to do so.