The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a detriment in rural communities that often experience pronounced health disparities. Hancock County, which has the highest percentage of African-Americans in Georgia, has faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Persistent challenges such as access to health and medical services and up-to-date health information have been exacerbated amid the ongoing pandemic. At one point, Hancock County had the highest COVID-19 mortality rates in the United States. Due to the ongoing efforts of the Department of Public Health, The Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center, and local healthcare providers, Hancock County now has 48% of its residents fully vaccinated, surpassing several surrounding counties such as Washington County at 43% and Glascock County at only 33%.
To assist with ongoing COVID-19 and flu vaccination efforts in Hancock County, Dr. Kimberly Carr, Project Lead, recorded a public service announcement (PSA) at the LOVE 103.7FM radio station in Irwinton, Georgia (Wilkinson County). This PSA encourages Hancock County residents to get vaccinated in the context of the “Protect Your Loved Ones” vaccine message. This messaging was developed in response to the initial preliminary assessment findings in which community members participated in key informant interviews and focus groups to help to identify drivers of COVID-19 and flu vaccine hesitancy. This “Protect Your Loved Ones” vaccine message was audience-tested to assess its acceptability and resonance to the community at large.
The Center has also attended Flu Vaccination Mobile Clinics hosted by the North Central Health District, REACH, and Community Health Care Systems to collect surveys and hand out promotional healthcare bags donated by the Center.