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Springfield-Greene Co. Health Dept. has door-to-door, telephone and texting campaign to answer vaccination concerns, promote clinics

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Greene County still has a long way to go in reaching its goal of a 70 percent vaccination rate for herd immunity against COVID-19.

Right now just over 46 percent of residents are vaccinated.

So the Springfield-Greene County Health Department is ramping up its efforts by launching the Finish Strong 417: Neighbor to Neighbor Campaign that includes door-to-door canvassing that’s already been going on for a few months as well as some new elements.

On Thursday we caught up with two members of the door-to-door outreach team as they fanned out in an area near Missouri State University to let residents know about an upcoming vaccination event in the neighborhood at the Ambassador Apartments on August 31.

If no one was at home a door hanger with the clinic information was left at the residence while those who did answer the door were given a flyer with vaccine facts and myths and asked if they had any questions they wanted answered.

“The Finish Strong 417 Campaign is all about connecting to residents and helping to address their individual concerns about the vaccine,” said Cara Erwin, the Springfield-Greene County Community Wellness Coordinator.

The door-to-door approach caused some controversy earlier this summer when the federal government sent a “surge team” to help determine what Springfield could do to address the sudden increase in new cases caused by the Delta variant.

“I will tell you this. I object to the federal government coming in and going door-to-door to anyone’s houses,” Missouri Governor Mike Parson said at the time.

But federal employees were never involved in the door-to-door canvassing. The health department started putting out door hangers in May and added in-person visits in June which Erwin described as “community health advocates that are people who are living or serving in the neighborhoods going out to talk with their neighbors and try to address their concerns.”

Erwin also pointed out the door-to-door approach is a proven way to engage the public.

“We modeled this after the fire department who has been doing canvassing of neighborhoods for years,” Erwin said. “They go door-to-door to talk to people about smoke alarms or fire extinguisher training with great success.”

Tom Billington and Mike Rankin were out for a walk in the area being canvassed on Thursday and said they appreciated the health department’s efforts.

“I think the door-to-door is one of many small things that need to happen,” said Billington, a retired teacher. “What bothers me most is just the politicalization of this. It’ sad to see Americans vehemently against each other. I don’t understand it.”

A recent poll by QuoteWizard (by Lending Tree) researching why Missouri residents oppose vaccinations shows 65 percent worried about side effects, 49 percent don’t trust the vaccine, 40 percent don’t trust the government, 22 percent don’t believe they need it and 18 percent don’t consider COVID-19 a big threat.

Erwin said the canvassing workers respect the opinions of the residents they come across and are there to educate, not intimidate.

“If they’re not interested we just walk away,” she explained. “It doesn’t have to be adversarial. It doesn’t have to be confrontational. We really try to aim our efforts at what we call the ‘movable middle’. These are people who could still be convinced to get the vaccine. They just need more individualized information.”

For Rankin, who’s lived in both England and the U.S., the chance to get vaccinated is a precious right many people around the world just don’t have.

“Fortunately here in the U.S. you can now go for your third shot,” he said. “That’s amazing! There’s a lot of places like Africa where they’re under five percent vaccinated.”

And while the door-to-door canvassing has been going on for about three months now, the health department’s other outreach elements are just about to begin.

“We’re also going to be starting some text and phone banking,” Erwin said. “If they’re already vaccinated we can talk to them about becoming a ‘vaccine champion’ where they can take some of the materials that we’ve developed to talk to their friends, family, neighbors and churches about the importance of becoming vaccinated.”

The initiative is funded in part by the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Organizations and individuals interested in becoming Vaccine Champions and joining the Finish Strong 417: Neighbor to Neighbor campaign should contact the Health Department’s Outreach Team at coronavirus@springfieldmo.gov or call (417) 874-1211for more information.

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