DHEC announces grants for ‘hyperlocal’ vaccine outreach

(Chris Joseph)
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 5:08 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 16, 2021 at 7:19 PM EDT
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BISHOPVILLE, S.C. (WIS) - Daily vaccination counts in South Carolina have been going down, and DHEC is trying to buck the trend.

Friday, it announced it’s taking applications from organizations for federal grant money to promote COVID-19 vaccines at a “hyper-local” level through August 5.

The money could be used for:

  • distributing DHEC informational materials
  • conducting safe in-person or virtual educational sessions with community members
  • placing social media and other media advertising messages on channels designed to reach focused populations
  • utilizing non-traditional outreach methods (informational signs at intersections, point-of-sale advertising, direct mailers, grassroots outreach, etc.)
  • providing transportation to people who want to get vaccinated

The DHEC press release specifically stated the money cannot be used for door-to-door knocking, something Governor Henry McMaster prohibited and sparred with the White House over.

RELATED STORY | White House calling out critics of door-to-door vaccine push

The release states in part:

“DHEC and key partners across the state have done a yeoman’s job-sharing essential COVID-19 information and working together to combat misinformation that leads to confusion and, in turn, hesitancy about the vaccines among South Carolinians,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director.

South Carolina is taking advantage of this federal funding to help ensure people in rural areas and minority or vulnerable communities receive the information they need to make informed decisions about vaccines from people they know and trust. Information sharing is more important than ever since South Carolina, and several other states, are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

The outreach initiatives to be provided by recipients of the grant will be centered on increasing community-level engagement that provides factual, easy-to-understand information about the safety, effectiveness, and benefits of COVID-19 vaccines and why they are essential to ending the ongoing pandemic.”

As of July 14, DHEC is reporting 49.5 percent of state residents over 12 have had at least one vaccine dose, while 43.6 percent of residents have completed vaccination.

One of the counties with the lowest vaccination rate in Lee County, with 3,881 residents with one dose for every 10,000 as of July 13. The county had the fifth-lowest rate in the state.

CareSouth Carolina has held regularly scheduled mobile clinics in the county. WIS visited one clinic at the Spring Hill Community Center, which had given out zero vaccinations after three hours.

CareSouth Carolina Community Health Technical Advisor for Lee County Jaquetta Graham welcomed the DHEC news and said information has been a barrier for her team.

“The conversations kind of go like why are you so iffy about getting vaccinated? We kind of go into discussions such as health issues, some of them say I have a health issue, or I need more knowledge about being vaccinated, the vaccine,” she said.

Graham said she did anticipate local groups taking advantage, and the community reaping the rewards.

“People are actually going to come out, even if they didn’t get vaccinated people are going to come out to hear what we have to say. By the time we’re talking to them and they’re seeing other community members out getting the vaccine, then they’ll get encouraged to get their vaccine also,” she said.

DHEC expects the initial $5 million to last for six months, with 25 grants awarded. If the funds allow, the grants could be renewed three times.

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