CAMDEN — Mayor Victor Carstarphen is on a mission to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rate of his city and led a parade on Tuesday to urge residents to take the jab.

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On Tuesday, Carstarphen led a parade complete with Camden High School cheerleaders chanting “let’s get vaccinated,” a Cooper Hospital mobile unit, and a Mister Softee truck. The purpose was to give easy access to the shot. Ten people took the shot from Rutgers School of Nursing students who were part of the procession.

"I call it full court press against an opponent we've seen before we're looking to face aggressively," Carstarphen told New Jersey 101.5.

As of Friday, 44% of everyone eligible in the city and 59% of adults have taken at least one dose of the vaccination; 38% of everyone eligible has completed their shots; and 50% of all adults, according to the state COVID-19 dashboard. Carstarphen's goal is 70%.

"I always say 'meet the people where they are,' so bringing the vaccine and services to the community and meeting the residents where they are is crucial and sometimes you have to think outside the box," Carstarphen said.

The mayor said the parade and his going door-to-door facilitates what he calls tough conversations about taking the vaccine and overcoming fears and objections.

"I walked up to a couple of individuals on Tuesday right on the street, right on the spot. Some of them were on the fence about getting the shot. I listened to them and told them we have to protect our self. No one wants to go backwards to last year. Those were dark times for all of us," Carstarphen said.

But for all the reasons about taking the vaccination to protect kids under 12 who can't get the vaccination, neighbors co-workers, and the elderly who are most vulnerable the most important thing is the trust factor.

"When one individual sees another individual in the community, the trust factor comes into play. That individual says to themself 'this person did it now I can talk to them and maybe I can talk to them about why they made the decision to get the vaccination,'" Carstarphen said.

The mayor joked that he's not making a commission for each person that decides to take the vaccination and also has a personal reason for hitting the streets: he lost two uncles to the virus.

"I'm willing to do anything I have to do to get one more person vaccinated than there was yesterday. We got 10 or 11 on Tuesday within a couple blocks radius walking around," Carstarphen said. "That 10 could multiply to 20. That 20 could multiply to 30 because those individuals are discussing this within our community."

Carstarphen was appointed interim mayor by the city council in May when Mayor Francisco “Frank” Moran resigned in April. He won the Democratic nomination in June.

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