Gladys Knight, “Empress of Soul,” and her husband William McDowell recently received their COVID-19 vaccinations in Haywood County.

The couple, who reside in North Carolina and created a community center and nonprofit RHS Community Foundation in Canton, wish to set an example for others and dispel vaccination fears within the community.

Through a partnership with Knight’s and McDowell’s RHS Community Foundation, Haywood County Health & Human Services Agency (HCHHSA), along with a strong turnout from community partners Haywood Regional Medical Center and Haywood County Emergency Services, there was an opportunity to offer a community-centered clinic Saturday, Feb. 13, at the Reynolds School site in Canton.

The event, which saw 117 vaccines distributed, was part of a state-mandated effort to reach out to underserved populations. This vaccination clinic also allowed Haywood County Emergency Services the opportunity to use its new mobile vaccination trailer for the first time – a resource which the county plans to use in the future to expand access to underserved areas in the community as vaccination efforts progress.

While the county is concentrating its largest efforts on mass vaccination events, as vaccine supplies increase, there will likely come a time when mobile clinic opportunities are more frequent.

McDowell, who grew up in the region, shared that in the Black community, medical trust is — understandably — sometimes hard to come by.

“You need someone to say you’ve been there…we know it’s important to use our names for service,” he said.

When asked why she chose to get the vaccine, Knight said, “Because I’m concerned about everybody. I’m a people person. I love people, and if not for people I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”

She also encourages the community to be selfless and wear a mask to protect others.

Haywood County Health & Human Services continues to coordinate vaccine distribution in partnership with Haywood County Emergency Services and Haywood Regional Medical Center. For more information, visit https://www.haywoodcountync.gov/vaccine.

Key Points about the COVID-19 vaccine:

— The vaccine is tested, safe, and effective

— Individuals cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccine

— There will be limited availability at first and more widely available over time.

— The vaccine will be provided free of charge to everyone that wants it.

— Two doses are needed for maximum immunity.

— There is no vaccine mandate.

Continuing the 3Ws will be critical until the vaccine is widely taken.

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