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Statewide Coronavirus task force aims to increase vaccination rates to 70%

Hattiesburg Clinic and Forrest Health are teaming to give away $15,000 between six people who...
Hattiesburg Clinic and Forrest Health are teaming to give away $15,000 between six people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 10:07 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Nationwide COVID positivity rates are surging, and Florida is no exception. According to a recent report, the state accounts for nearly 20% of all new cases in the United States.

Today the Statewide Coronavirus Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Taskforce met to discuss current vaccination efforts, especially those aimed at marginalized communities.

“We are in the movement to save all people,” chair and organizer of the task force, R.B. Holmes, said. “But also to make sure that marginalized people will not be left behind.”

One of the task force’s initiatives is to meet young people where they are. Youth leaders like Jayland Johnson are encouraging their peers to get vaccinated, using social media to get the word out.

“I’ve really been trying to get my peers to come together as one and get the vaccine,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, it’s not just for us. It’s for the people around us, and it’s for the people that we might see in our school classroom. It’s for our teachers; it’s for our grandparents; it’s for our aunties and uncles.”

Currently less than 50% of people in Florida are fully vaccinated. The task force hopes to get this number up to 70%.

Task force members emphasized the importance of utilizing trusted voices in the community, including survivors of COVID-19 who wish they would’ve gotten the vaccine sooner.

Darius Baker, program director at Hallelujah 95.4FM, says he helps amplify these voices on his radio show.

“I’ve had on people who have had COVID and had a bad experience who were against the vaccine at the beginning, but now they’re for it,” Baker said. “These are business owners. This is the community that people trust, because they go to their businesses and they’ll say, “Oh I didn’t know that person had COVID.”

As schools prepare for students to return in the fall, some are implementing incentive programs to boost vaccination rates.

For example, task force member and FAMU president Larry Robinson said the university is giving students, faculty and staff the chance to receive $100 if they get vaccinated.

As the meeting concluded, task force member Teresa Jefferson-Snorton acknowledged that, although the high number of unvaccinated Floridians is troubling, the task force must continue to perservere.

“The worst thing that can every happen is to not try,” she said. “And so it is our charge today to keep trying, to keep talking, to keep sharing, to keep the message consistent, for as long as it takes to get our communities and our families and our congregations safe.”

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