Berrien Co. Health Dept. hoping to connect more with vaccine-hesitant residents

NOW: Berrien Co. Health Dept. hoping to connect more with vaccine-hesitant residents

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NILES, Mich. — The Berrien County Health Department is investing in creative ways to not only encourage people to get vaccinated, but understand their reasons for distrust in the first place. 

While 61% of Berrien County is vaccinated, the health department has struggled to connect with minority communities.

Friday, a panel shared their initial vaccine concerns and why they decided the shot was worth overcoming them. 

“We’ve noticed a huge communication gap and this was due to lack of trust and access, the way we’re using social influencers is by putting our information in the hands of trusted community members to take it to their respective spaces,” said Chioma Ejiofor, BCHD special projects coordinator.

Citing past mistreatment of minorities in healthcare and their rightful reasons to have reservations about the shot, they encouraged people to research. 

“There’s no vaccine that is 100% effective, however even though you may still get the virus the effects aren’t as severe a majority of the time, there’s also the thought about all these variants, studies are showing it’s still effective at preventing severe illness and the immunity you build from the vaccine is far more predictable than what you’ll get with the virus,” said Betty Moore, nurse practitioner at Spectrum Health Lakeland.

With an abundance of information circulating, it can be hard to decipher what’s factual.

But, the conversations are more productive when it’s with someone you trust.

The health department’s new vaccine influencers – all local ambassadors – are starting with connecting through music with their latest video.

“Have honest and real conversations with professionals and I hope the healthcare community uses this to address these concerns, there’s a real sense of distrust among black and brown communities, not just with COVID or the vaccine,” said Traci Burton, vaccine influencer and music video creator.

The Berrien County Health Department partnered with United Way of Southwest Michigan to fund the music video through the vaccine influencer program.

 

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