Health officials hope to vaccinate kids at school, increase outreach in hesitant communities

Posted at 5:02 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 18:05:26-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va.— As vaccine supply outpaces demand, health officials are getting creative to combat vaccine hesitancy.

They’re leaning on local pastors to instill faith in the vaccine and hope to get more shots in arms of children soon.

“We used our church bus to circulate throughout the community to announce that we were offering the vaccines, and we were providing rides for people we needed to come to the church to get their vaccine,” said Bishop Dwight Riddick of Gethsemane Baptist Church.

In Norfolk, Faith Deliverance Christian Center says it garnered a tremendous response from walk-ins at their vaccination clinics with the help of volunteers holding signs up outside letting people know shots were available to the public.

Churches are also canvassing communities to dispel myths about the vaccines. Pastors say their biggest challenge isn’t in the availability of clinics, but getting people to have confidence in the vaccine, especially young people.

“We are finding that the younger generation, they are very hesitant about their shot, very hesitant,” said Ivy Baptist Church member Joni Ivey.

Chesapeake Health Department Director Dr. Nancy Welch says health departments are looking into the possibility of children getting vaccinated at school as long as they have parental permission. This comes on the heels of news the FDA is expected to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 by early next week.

Health departments say many people won’t travel to large vaccination sites, so community outreach is now their focus.

“We’re doing small community events — more localized. We’re going to target the areas most underserved, going out into the community,” said Portsmouth Health District Population Health Manager Avanti Allen-Benson.

Health officials warn that every decision in life comes with risks, but with vaccines being around 90% effective in preventing COVID-19, the greater danger could be in waiting to get the shot.

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