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Local health care groups expanding vaccine access to rural communities

There’s a new push to expand vaccine access to rural Americans as heath care groups step up...
There’s a new push to expand vaccine access to rural Americans as heath care groups step up efforts to reach herd immunity.(WCTV)
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 7:12 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - There’s a new push to expand vaccine access to rural Americans as health care groups step up efforts to reach herd immunity.

On Tuesday, President Biden announced a new goal to get 70% of adult Americans vaccinated by July 4. One of the priorities to reach laid out by the White House is expanding access to hard-to-reach communities.

That’s a challenge facing many counties across North Florida and South Georgia.

Florida Blue says there are a few common denominators impacting low vaccination rates. They include a lack of transportation or digital access, many people living in one household or language barriers.

All of those factors disproportionally impact rural communities.

One of the ways the health group works to combat these challenges is to bring vaccines into the communities which need them by hosting pop-up clinics.

These clinics, staff say not only provide easier access to the vaccine but can help build trust and confidence within the community.

“You bring the vaccine, we’ll bring the information, our medical expertise and our support of the event, and then we leverage the community organizations that we’re trying to target,” said Senior Medical Director Kelly Tice Wells. “That’s how you mobilize something. You start with who are the thought leaders in the community, and who are the community members that are trusted. Once you can garner their support, the ability to influence and effect change really is facilitated by that.”

Across the state line, South Central Primary Care is also working to mobilize vaccine access.

The care center is launching a new mobile health unit. This allows SCPC to bring necessary care to rural areas across seven South Georgia counties.

Its first priority is to bring the vaccines where they’re needed.

“We have seen a lot of people who are not able to come to us,” said Quality Improvement Manager Judy Swanson. “They’re saying they need a ride, you have to wait fifteen minutes after you get the vaccine so they have to wait for a ride, and they don’t have transportation in these areas.”

The goal is to be able to bring other types of care to these individuals long passed the pandemic.

The first mobile event the group is planning will be coordinated with the Ocilla Housing Authority on May 22.

Florida Blue plans to host more pop-up clinics across the state as they’re needed. In the meantime, staff say local pharmacies can be a great resource for vaccine access in rural communities.

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