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TX Health Workers Target ZIP Codes to Tackle Lagging Vaccination Rates


Monday, September 27, 2021   

HOUSTON - Door-to-door and "ZIP-code-by-ZIP-code" is how some COVID-19 health workers in Texas are reaching the vaccine-hesitant.

The "Your Shot Texas" campaign has invested more than a million dollars to help increase vaccine access and help communities hit hardest.

Beaumont, in southeast Texas, is one of those. Mary Scott is a nurse and vaccine coordinator with the Southeast Texas Faith and Community Leaders Coalition and said they've been working with the National Guard to set up clinics at events where people plan to congregate.

"I try to tell them from a health perspective," said Scott, "you have received vaccines your entire life. And if you have children - your children have been vaccinated so it's nothing new."

Only 32% of residents in Jefferson County - home to Beaumont - were vaccinated as of last week.

The Episcopal Health Foundation is part of a philanthropic collective awarding grants to speed the vaccination effort.

Brian Sasser - chief communications officer with the foundation - said the first round of grant money helped reach 100,000 people who were vaccine-hesitant and 2,500 of those received at least one shot.

Some people say they plan to get the vaccine, according to Sasser, but admit to procrastinating. Others have job-related concerns.

"It's just some practical, convenience matters," said Sasser. "'OK, if I get the vaccine, and I have side-effects, I can't take off my hourly job and still get paid.'"

By going door to door, Scott said she's learned that trusted people or organizations already embedded in communities are the most effective in reaching the hesitant, and encourages those still uncertain to seek advice.

"Talk to a trusted person, pharmacist, doctor, nurse, church member," said Scott, "somebody who's been vaccinated and just have a heart-to-heart because it's going to take face to face at this point."

Since June, 'Your Shot Texas' has awarded grants to 34 community organizations that are using innovative projects to reach the unvaccinated.

Disclosure: Episcopal Health Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Mental Health, Philanthropy, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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