Bartholomew County officials hope to boost vaccinations with targeted messaging

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COLUMBUS, Ind.––As communities continue to see slumping demand for COVID-19 vaccines, members of the Bartholomew County COVID-19 task force hope to reach out to those who haven’t gotten their shot and convince them to sign up for an appointment.

“As a community, as a city, we can’t get back to doing the things that we want to do until we feel really comfortable that enough people are vaccinated,” said Mary Ferdon, Executive Director of Administration for the city of Columbus.

Members of the task force, which is made up of various community and health leaders, are planning surveys among residents who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. They hope to identify the most common barriers to getting vaccinated.

“Does it have to do with access or location,” Ferdon said. “Are they having difficulty getting somewhere?  Or is it myths?”

Once the information is gathered, it will be incorporated into a targeted public messaging campaign aimed at promoting vaccines.

“A lot of different messages are going to be needed for people who are skeptical, or afraid or concerned,” said Julie Abedian, Vice President of Community Health Initiatives at Columbus Regional Health. “Those are going to be very different messages from people who just don’t have access.”

Once the messages are identified, project planners hope to bring local public figures on board to help deliver them.

“Like the Mayor and various CEOs and various leaders of organizations,” Abedian said. “People who are trusted.”

The campaign, which could span across social media, radio and TV ads, will also include family doctors around the county.

“If somebody is coming in for a primary care appointment, for example, your own primary care doctor would be asking you about have you had your vaccine,” Abedian said. “And if not, tell me about your concerns, tell me about your worries.”

“We want people to leave their appointment with an appointment,” Abedian continued.

After enough information is gathered, the task force hopes to start rolling out the new campaign in the next couple weeks. They’re hoping to build momentum leading up to mass vaccination clinics scheduled at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds on May 25th and 26th.

“As a community, as a city, we can’t get back to doing the things that we want to do until we feel really comfortable that enough people are vaccinated,” Ferdon said.

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