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AR Community Health Centers Breaking Down Barriers to COVID Vaccine

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Tuesday, November 9, 2021   

MARIANNA, Ark. -- With last week's announcement the Pfizer vaccine was approved for use in children ages 5-11, community health centers in Arkansas and beyond are gearing up to reach children and their families who might still be wary of getting the shot.

Kellee Farris, CEO of the Lee County Cooperative Clinic in eastern Arkansas, the state's oldest community health center, said rural Lee County has dealt with a variety of socioeconomic disparities that may be contributing to vaccine hesitancy among residents.

Farris emphasized with the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for younger children, they are heading into schools and setting up a mass texting system for parents to get information at their fingertips.

"We are able to reach people who aren't our patients with these dispelling myths and just short texts with links to where they can find more information from the CDC or from the Arkansas Department of Health," Farris explained.

Farris pointed out one challenge has been the spread of misinformation about the vaccine by a few influential people in the county. About 33% of county residents age 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state health department data.

Dr. Ron Yee, chief medical officer for the National Association of Community Health Centers said in the ongoing efforts to reach the unvaccinated, these kinds of clinics play a key role in building trust in medical systems.

Yee stated they can ultimately help encourage those most resistant to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

"Most of the people that work in health centers are from the community," Yee observed. "Many of these people had a relationship in terms of family members, neighbors, people they know from the community. And then I think the longevity of the relationship, you really need a trusted broker to get these vaccines out."

Community health centers have completed nearly 16 million COVID vaccines across the country so far. The clinics have provided a variety of health care to low-income people and hard-to-reach populations since the mid-1960s.

Disclosure: National Association of Community Health Centers contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, and Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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