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‘VaxUp SC’ promoting vaccine information, access in harder-to-reach communities

Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 6:33 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 30, 2021 at 6:55 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As public health agencies, like the South Carolina Department of Health and Environment Control, work to boost vaccination numbers in the state, they are turning to community groups for help.

This fall, DHEC awarded grants of up to $200,000 to organizations to increase vaccine awareness and, ultimately, encourage more people to get the shot.

Among the beneficiaries of this grant is the VaxUp SC campaign, led by Columbia-based Carolina for All and Charleston-based Racial Justice Network in a statewide effort to promote the shot in harder-to-reach areas of South Carolina.

“Knowledge can actually change a person’s direction and their mind and where they want to go, so we want to be able to pass that information to the people who have not received that information,” Elder James Johnson of Racial Justice Network said.

Their goal is to eliminate vaccine hesitancy through education — working their way through distributing around 10,000 pamphlets complete with accurate vaccine information from DHEC — and ensure access to this information and the vaccine for all South Carolinians.

“Whatever it takes to get people to get shots in their arms to live,” Lawrence Moore of Carolina for All said.

“Whatever it takes” means having this information and shots available at events like cookouts and bike giveaways, which organizers have recently done.

VaxUp SC is putting emphasis on vaccine promotion within the state’s rural areas and Black communities, where vaccinations have been disproportionately lower than the general population, though recent data from DHEC shows disparities in vaccination rates between Black and white South Carolinians have shrunk.

“We have a lot of people that don’t have social media, don’t have Internet network, or they don’t watch the news,” Johnson said. “So what we are taking upon ourselves is to go into those communities to pass that information to those people because the Black community is suffering a whole lot and dying a whole lot from this virus.”

This work is personal, too, for Johnson, a pastor.

“I have done several eulogies for people who have died from this virus,” he said.

And it is as well for Moore, whose sister was infected with COVID-19 before vaccines were widely available in the US.

“So she didn’t have an opportunity to get vaccinated,” he said. “She passed away in Lancaster County on Jan. 6 of 2021.”

Now that the shot is available and free to anyone who wants it, they want to make sure people don’t miss their own shot.

“It is in our community, and that’s the whole state of South Carolina. Our community is the state of South Carolina,” Moore said.

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