INSTITUTE, W.Va. — Enhancement of vaccine education and immunization outreach in four West Virginia counties are the two goals for West Virginia State University (WVSU) and West Virginia University (WVU) when their partnership begins in the coming weeks.
The partnership came after a grant of nearly $250,000 was awarded to the state’s two land grant universities. The award was presented by the Extension Foundation, in cooperation with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, through an Interagency Agreement with the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address health disparities among rural and other underserved communities across the United States.
The Extension Collaborative on Immunization Teaching & Engagement initiative is a result of the recent announcement from the CDC to provide $9.95 million funding to the USDA-NIFA to support an innovative approach to community education and partnerships to advance adult immunization.
The two extension services will have a strong focus on multigenerational families and other vulnerable populations. Faculty and staff have partnered to create the “Don’t Wait, Vaccinate!” initiative to provide information on immunizations, including education and awareness around the COVID-19 vaccines.
“We target this because we feel like grandparents struggle with getting updated knowledge and resources for their kids,” Tiffany Ellis-Williams, Director of WVSU Economic Development Center told MetroNews.
The team reviewed data from all 55 counties, including areas with greater health disparities and minority populations, and will use the grant funding to focus their education and outreach efforts on four counties: Clay, Kanawha, McDowell and Mercer. WVU will be leading program implementation in McDowell and Mercer counties, while WVSU will lead programming in Clay and Kanawha counties, Ellis-Williams said.
The focus will be on an assessment to who has received a COVID-19 vaccination and then if not, why have they been hesitant to get one. Ellis-Williams said surveys would go out to grandfamilies in those areas, then from the assessment, the extension services would develop a curriculum to educate families on the importance of receiving COVID-19 vaccination.
She said there is also plans for educational workshops and town hall meetings with local health officials to explain the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccinations.
Ellis-Williams is looking forward to the collaborative effort which will last the next two years.
“We feel like we can reach a larger audience with manpower and the funding we’ve received. We want to make sure we are maximizing our efforts,” she said.