The Georgia Department of Public Health appointed one of Brunswick’s own to the newly created COVID-19 Health Equity Council.

Jackie Bryant, president of the Brunswick Chapter of the Links, Inc., will help the council advise the DPH on equity in COVID-19 vaccination distribution and administration, and improve outreach and communication within communities most affected by COVID-19.

Vaccination awareness and education will be the equity council’s most immediate focus, according to a statement from the DPH. It will work with the state’s 18 public health districts to “reach communities of color and our most vulnerable populations with the goal of addressing concerns related to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The first meeting is scheduled for this afternoon, Bryant said.

“I was delighted when they offered that to me, and I consider it a privilege,” Bryant said. “I think the vaccines are very important and it’s great to be a voice to the community.”

There are some areas in which the DPH could do a better job administering vaccines, she said, particularly when it comes to scheduling appointments. Much of the scheduling process is handled via email, which many in the community may not be able to access.

“With the elderly, a lot of them aren’t privy to having computers, and that seems to be the mode of communication and scheduling, and I think in Glynn County we can improve that,” Bryant said.

She also hopes the council can help dispel some misconceptions and beliefs about the safety of COVID vaccines.

“I just want to be able to reassure the community that taking the vaccine is safe and be able to express the importance of taking the vaccination,” Bryant said.

That will be an essential role as the DPH cites research suggesting nearly half of Black Georgia residents say they do not plan to get vaccinated. Eighty-three percent across all age groups said they would gain more confidence in the vaccine if they knew it worked safely.

Among Hispanic Georgians, 38 percent say they don’t plan to receive the vaccine and 28 percent expressed doubt in its efficacy, but 34 percent indicated in a survey that clear messaging about vaccine safety would sway them.

The council was announced days after the state’s second expansion of eligibility in the vaccination program.

On Monday, K-12 teachers and school staff, adults with developmental disabilities and parents of children with complex medical conditions became eligible to receive a vaccine.

Nursing home residents and employees, healthcare workers, residents age 65 and older and their caretakers and emergency first responders were included in the first phase of vaccine rollout.

Gov. Brian Kemp also announced last week that the DPH and Georgia Emergency Management Agency plan to open five new mass vaccination sites, one in Waycross and another in Savannah, each with the capacity to vaccinate 4,000 or so people a week.

Anyone eligible can sign up to receive a vaccine from the Glynn, Camden or McIntosh county health departments by calling 912-230-5506 or visiting chdcovidvax.org, the Southeast Georgia Health System at sghs.org/covid-19 or Walgreens locations at walgreens.com/covid19vaccine.

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