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United Way addresses vaccine hesitancy with grant

A River Valley Health nurse, left, gives a booster COVID-19 vaccine to Cathy Snyder of Williamsport, right, at the Sojourner Truth Ministries Health and Resource Fair, Friday in Williamsport. The COVID-19 vaccinations were in conjunctions with a Lycoming County United Way campaign to address vaccine hesistancy. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

A $100,000 grant from Temple University will enable the Lycoming County United Way to address the issue of vaccine-hesitancy in the community.

“It’s trauma-informed,” Ron Frick, CEO of the Lycoming County United Way said.

“We’re not going to go out and be judgmental. We’re going to provide facts. We’re going to provide statistics. We’re going to provide testimonials.

“We’re going to try to approach the community, especially areas of the community that are underserved.”

“We’re going to try to work with organizations like River Valley Health and Dental…just to talk about the value of getting vaccinated,” he added.

Lycoming County United Way President and CEO Ron Frick, left, and Director of Community Impact JanAnn Todd, second from left, speak with Sojourner Truth Ministries Resource Advocate Krista Snyder and Sojourner Board President Maigrette Polanco, right, at the Sojourner Truth Ministries Health and Resource Fair on Friday. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Health Resources and Services Administration had authorized a total of $3.5 million in grant funding. Temple got the grant and then selected through an application process sub-recipients, such as the United Way.

The original program started in Philadelphia and surrounding counties. According to information from Temple, the ultimate goals of the project are to prevent transmission of COVID-19, increase vaccine access and decrease vaccine hesitancy, and provide the resources communities need to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic in medically

underserved urban, suburban and rural communities. It focuses on improving health outcomes among racial and ethnic minority groups, English language learners and vulnerable populations, including older adults, adults with intellectual and other disabilities or chronic conditions in counties in the state.

Frick noted that he had already been in touch with other community organizations such as the Health Improvement Coalition, and Let’s End COVID! to work with them because they’ve already done a lot of work in this area.

“A lot of this is going to be, how do I get conversations going in neighborhoods,” Frick said. “How do I work on the block? How do I get people to come to the Y and have conversations about why they’re not getting vaccinated or why they are? Try to get some regular people to do some testimonial kinds of things.”

While applauding the efforts of community leaders to give testimonials about why they got vaccinated, Frick believes it’s equally important to make people aware of the stories of average people that they know.

“Just getting more people to say this isn’t a political issue,” he said. “This is an issue because I trust the people in my circle who said I should do this.”

As part of the grant, the United Way will be able to spend some of the money for advertising and also for incentives.

“One of the things we’re going to talk to Sojourner about is, let’s just say you’re feeding 100 people and 50 aren’t vaccinated, are they not vaccinated because they don’t want to be? Are they not vaccinated because they can’t be or are they not vaccinated because they can’t get there,” Frick said.

Frick said that with the grant funding he has the opportunity to buy bus passes for people so that the problem of transportation is eliminated.

Once people go to a vaccination site and come back with proof of their first vaccination, they would receive another $10 gift card. If they get a second shot, depending on the vaccine they have received, then they would receive a gift card for that as an incentive to follow through and be fully vaccinated.

Frick said that he is permitted to spend up to a certain amount per person on incentives to get them to receive the shot.

“It’s trying to find different solutions to the same problem,” he explained.

The grant also enabled the United Way to hire outreach specialists to do health fairs and talk to the community.

“We’re going to work with UPMC and other people in the community to try to get people to understand, this is a different look at it,” he said.

Frick said that it’s possible that even if the vaccination rate doesn’t increase by much, it would still be worth it.

“If I get one more person vaccinated, if it saves a life…what’s the value of your life? It’s probably more than $100,000,” he said.

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