NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An iconic Harlem restaurant partnered with the city to bring COVID vaccines to its customers as part of a larger effort to meet hesitant residents right where they are.

Melba Wilson is literally holding her customers’ hands and cheering them on as they get a COVID vaccine.

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The owner of the well-known Harlem soul food restaurant bearing her name helped convince a hesitant Shyla Velez to get the shot.

“A lot of not knowing information is what makes all of us kind of nervous,” Velez said.


Wilson knows the devastation of this pandemic, from loved ones getting sick to the economic impact on the community.

That’s why she says the vaccine is a constant topic in her restaurant.

“To be frank with you, we’ve lost some customers because of it,” Wilson told CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas. “And I understand that. However, I feel that I have to say something.”

While overall, 60% of city residents are fully vaccinated, in Harlem, that number drops to about 50%.

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When it’s broken down by demographics, only 34% of the Black community is fully vaccinated.


“We have the vaccine, so if you want to get vaccinated, you can come out there,” said Pastor Heaven Berhane, of First Corinthian Baptist Church.

Saturday, the mobile vaccination units outside Melba’s Restaurant will drive just a few blocks to the First Corinthian Baptist Church, where they’re preparing for the second Hope for Harlem block party.

In addition, thousands of free items will be available, including groceries, filled backpacks for school and even job opportunities.

“We had a painter apprentice recruitment, and we’re actually going to be giving out some cards for our apprentice program,” said Crystal Garcia, of District Council 9.

From the vaccine to the block party, organizations and businesses are trying to do their part to help residents safely bounce back after a devastating year and a half.

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Saturday’s Hope for Harlem block party starts at noon outside the First Corinthian Baptist Church.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas