Listening to Those Rejecting the Vaccine – Special Session Scheduled for Sep. 27

By September 18, 2021Local NewsWIRE

A conversation to hear concerns about vaccine acceptance from Savannah area citizens who are not vaccinated.

(SAVANNAH, GA) Healthy Savannah and YMCA of Coastal Georgia will hold a special virtual “Listening Session” on Monday, Sep. 27 to hear from those who are not accepting the COVID-19 vaccine. This effort, along with an initiative to train 65 community advocates beginning in October, is part of a focus on COVID-19 vaccine education, awareness and acceptance, particularly in Savannah’s Black and Hispanic communities.

Funded by a supplemental grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the program is intended to broaden the initiatives of the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant.

The online listening session will provide a “safe space” platform for those who are not accepting the vaccine to voice their thoughts, concerns and questions. The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Those wishing to attend should RSVP to elsie@healthysavannah.org. A link will be sent to those who RSVP.

“This is an opportunity for Savannah residents whose voices often go uninvited and unheard to be part of a conversation that has always needed their input,” said Elsie Smalls, Ph.D., operations manager. “They alone can articulate the realities of the health inequities that disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic Savannahians.”

Healthy Savannah and the YMCA of Coastal Georgia team members are also hoping this virtual listening session, along with three held earlier in the summer, will help identify potential community advocates. Neighborhood leaders, church leaders and community organizers are encouraged to apply.

Virtual training sessions for the advocate program will begin October 2 with the ultimate goal of creating community-acceptable approaches for improving vaccination availability, accessibility, and confidence. Utilizing their background, experiences, interests and skillsets, the advocates will be trained to speak to and learn from the community by meeting with community and faith-based organizations as well as local business owners.

“We’re gearing up to train our first group soon but we’ve got room for up to 65 total,” said Nichele Hoskins, communication manager. “Those who are passionate about advocating for their community, with a heart for community service and an interest in health equity, are invited to apply.

Hoskins says in addition to the $500 they’ll receive for completing the program, the advocates will have the opportunity to sharpen their leadership skills, learn about health advocacy, and add to their resumes.

Training in small groups of about 10 each will get underway beginning Oct. 2 with the ultimate goal of creating community-acceptable approaches for improving vaccination availability, accessibility, and confidence.

“We’ve learned that this is a process where we must build trust and listen to all voices,” said Paula Kreissler, executive director of Healthy Savannah. “While we want this journey to have the healthy outcome of more vaccine acceptance, we understand that may not happen quickly or easily.”

To register for the Sep. 27 listening and info session, apply to become a community advocate or learn more, please visit https://healthysavannah.org/community-advocate-program/ or email elsei@healthysavannah.org.

ABOUT THE SUPPLEMENTAL RACIAL AND ETHNIC APPROACHES TO COMMUNITY HEALTH (REACH) GRANT
On December 27, 2020, the President signed into law the FY 2021 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 (P.L. 116-260), which includes supplemental funding for coronavirus vaccine activities to support broad-based distribution, access and vaccine coverage. Resources are focused on planning and preparing for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines, supporting the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine program, expanding the existing immunization infrastructure, engaging in additional partnerships, and implementing and evaluating new strategies to reach affected populations, such as those who may be vaccine hesitant and those who are in racial and ethnic or other minority groups. The supplemental grant funds awarded to the YMCA of Coastal Georgia and Healthy Savannah must be spent/expended within an 18-month performance and budget period from April 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022. Local program administrators are Paula Kreissler, project director, paula@healthysavannah.org; Nichele Hoskins, communication manager, nichele@healthysavannah.org; and Elsie Smalls, PhD, operations manager, elsie@healthysavannah.org. healthysavannah.org ymcaofcoastalga.org.

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