Tarleton State University’s Rural Communication Institute and the Tarleton Foundation received a $47,300 Your Shot Texas grant to provide COVID-19 vaccine support for Anderson, Cherokee, Harrison, Henderson, Panola and Shelby counties in Northeast Texas.
The counties for this initiative were chosen due to the connections the directors have to them and because they were concerned with the increasing COVID-19 cases and decreased vaccination rates the counties were experiencing, according to Cecilia Jacobs, Chief Communications Officer for Tarleton University.
The vaccination rate for Cherokee County, as of Jan. 18, was 47.2% of the population age five and older, according to the Cherokee County Public Health Department. The vaccination rate was at 31.06% at the time of application for grant funding last July.
Dr. Jennifer T. Edwards, Executive Director of the Rural Communication Institute and a native East Texan, said she is excited about reaching the east Texas population through informational booths, seminars and vaccination incentives.
Informational booths will be located in front of grocery stores, libraries and other retailers who would like to host one. There will be winter health checklists and information for adults and children at each booth.
Seminars will take place on Facebook Live at facebook.com/NETXCounts. The series, taking place at 6 p.m. Thursdays, will feature speakers who are healthcare providers and educators from the Texas A&M Health Science Center Tarleton State University and other universities and colleges in the east Texas region, according to Jacobs.
Upcoming seminar topics include:
• Feb. 3 – The State of health in north east Texas: What are some common illnesses and diseases?
• Feb. 17 – The Pharmacist is your friend: Questions you need to ask your pharmacist
• March 3 – Benefits and disadvantages of taking the vaccine
• March 17 – What is Telehealth? Is it for me and my family?
• March 31 – I am pregnant, do I need to consider taking the COVID-19 vaccine?
“Some of the counties in the East Texas area have the lowest vaccination rates in the state. I want to make sure our East Texans remain healthy,” Edwards said.
Dr. Edwards’ family has lived in the area since the early 1800s.
Ashleah Baker, Executive Director of the Tarleton State University Foundation, Inc., said the foundation is “happy to support the outreach and research efforts of Tarleton faculty and students, especially those who are focused on our greater Texas community.”
The fund assists community-based and grassroots organizations that have existing relationships in Texas communities, including people of color and under-resourced rural and urban communities.
“Your Shot Texas prioritizes these and other communities, including rural areas, that are outside the healthcare system,” said Elena Marks, CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation in Houston. “These groups are best reached by trusted messengers to address any remaining vaccine hesitancy and then followed up with more convenient access to getting a vaccine.”
Your Shot Texas was created by the Episcopal Health Foundation, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc., and The Meadows Foundation.
For information on the booths and seminars, visit facebook.com/NETXCounts. The page also features videos and photos from past events.