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Hancock County Needs Assessment Preliminary Findings Update

Preliminary findings of the Phase 1 Initial Needs Assessment were presented to the North Central Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health (NCHD-DPH) on July 28, 2021 in Sparta, Georgia. Phase 1 occurred between May 5, 2021 and July 31, 2021. The purpose of the initial assessment is to better understand the attitudes, motivations and beliefs of vaccine hesitancy among African Americans living in Hancock County, Georgia.  The initial needs assessment will also inform NCHD-DPH’s ongoing COVID-19 and flu vaccine efforts.

A total of 124 COVID-19 and flu community surveys were collected. Also, three focus groups and five key informant interviews were conducted. Key informant interviews and focus groups were representative of different segments of the community: education, faith-based, healthcare, and local government. Qualitative methods like key informant interviews and focus groups allowed for a more in-depth, rich, and robust analysis to help identify barriers and drivers of vaccine access, keys to successful vaccine behaviors, vaccine hesitancy and the community impact of COVID-19 and flu. Additionally, attending community events such as Kam Kares and the Arts in Sparta Festival, provided opportunities for the project team to understand the community’s sociocultural context, one of the key factors in building community ties and gaining insight to vaccine hesitancy behaviors.

Emergent themes from findings included misinformation in the form of conspiracy theories and inconsistent vaccine messaging. These common themes were notable drivers of vaccine hesitancy. On a larger scale, vaccine complacency, vaccine inconvenience, and lack of vaccine confidence also played a role and could be observed throughout the data. Prominent sources of untrusted vaccine information included social media, internet searches, and word of mouth. Trusted vaccine information included the health department, physicians, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and science. Faith leaders and healthcare workers were the most trusted messengers within the community.

The next sub-phase of the initial needs assessment: Audience Testing (of COVID-19 and flu vaccine messages) has begun and will continue through September 30, 2021.

Submitted by Dr. Kimberly Carr, Community Resource Specialist