Health Department nurse Paige Lightsey gives Sean O’Leary-Stieb, 19, a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year.

A coordinated effort to increase the vaccination rate in Glynn County is directing its focus on fighting misinformation and addressing the fears of the unvaccinated.

Vaccinate Glynn, a mass vaccine campaign led by Family Connection Glynn, Coastal Community Health Services and other partners, began in August.

The project has hosted clinics and targeted its messaging toward vulnerable groups and to those who are most hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

But organizers have found that increasing the vaccination rate requires more than hosting clinics.

“We had our first event at Lady K’s Kitchen, and we didn’t have a big turnout,” said Dominique Mack, executive director of Family Connection Glynn. “We had about four people to come and get vaccinated. And then we decided to pivot because we realized that a lot of folks still needed some more information and education.”

Family Connection Glynn will partner with Coastal Community Health Services and the Department of Public Health to host a virtual education event at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30. The event will include a panel discussion led by local healthcare professionals who will be able to answer audience questions about COVID-19 vaccines.

Speakers will include Dr. Kavanaugh Chandler and Dr. Jay Floyd from Coastal Community Health Services and Dr. Lawton Davis and nurse C. Paige Lightsey from the Department of Public Health.

The event will be held via Zoom and will also address the state of the pandemic in this community, reasons for vaccine hesitancy, misinformation about vaccines and more.

A virtual event minimizes the risks of spreading the virus, Mack said, as transmission rates in the community are currently high.

Glynn County and surrounding coastal counties have experienced a surge in virus numbers, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19 since July. The vaccination rate has increased over the past month though, from 41.9% on Aug. 23 to 46.4% on Sept. 22.

Tough experiences, like the loss of friends and family to the virus, have led to more people seeking the vaccine, Mack said.

But there’s still significant work to be done to encourage more people to get vaccinated, she said.

“It’s taken things like death to convince people that this vaccine is necessary,” she said.

Building trust and relationships and educating more people about the science of the vaccines will be necessary, she said. And that’s a job for many.

“One of us can’t do it,” Mack said. “All of us coming together and being united in these efforts is the only thing that’s going to increase the number of vaccinated folks in this area.”

It’s also important to use limited resources in the best possible way, Mack said.

“We have resources in our community, but they’re not effective if we’re going out to provide these vaccines and then we have to throw them away because people aren’t showing up,” she said.

Vaccinate Glynn is offering incentives like gift cards to those who get vaccinated.

Mack encourages residents to share information about Vaccinate Glynn’s efforts on social media and to spend time talking with the people in their life who are not vaccinated. She urged people to listen to others’ concerns and share testimonials about their own vaccine experiences.

“Tell them the truth. Say, ‘My arm hurt after I took this,’” Mack said. “‘I didn’t feel well after I took this.’ … We have to tell the whole truth about it.”

A second event is planned for Oct. 3 at the Rise Risley campus, 1800 Albany St. Family Connection Glynn will partner with A Better Glynn to host a community resource fair, during which vaccines will be offered.

Anyone who wishes to support Vaccinate Glynn can email Mack at glynnfamilyconnection@gmail.com.

The Zoom link to attend the virtual event Sept. 30 is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/2247058879?pwd=L0k3Wkl2TmJPYU1pRFoxZHdyVGllUT09.

To schedule a vaccine appointment with the Department of Public Health, visit chdcovidvax.org or call 912-230-5506. To make an appointment with Coastal Community Health Services, go to coastalchs.org or call 912-574-5097.

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