The Springfield-Greene County Health Department and the city of Springfield are undertaking a door-to-door effort to reach Greene County residents who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
Aaron Schekorra, the Health Department’s public health information administrator, said the department has already been going door to door since spring, but its new campaign, Finish Strong 417: Neighbor to Neighbor, kicked off this week.
The initiative includes door-to-door canvassing, text and phone banking, and other longstanding public health outreach efforts to address questions and concerns of unvaccinated people while connecting them with opportunities to get the vaccine. An award from the Missouri Foundation for Health is helping to fund the effort.
Health Director Katie Towns said the campaign is a way to help answer people’s questions about the vaccine.
“The more people who are vaccinated, the safer we all are,” Towns said. “But we also understand that many people still have questions about the vaccine, and we want to provide every opportunity possible to get those questions answered.”
Nearly 54% of Greene County residents are not fully vaccinated. Today, the Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard reports a declining seven-day average of 82 daily cases with a 46.32% full vaccination rate for Greene County residents ages 12 and up and 176 patients in local hospitals.
Daily cases reached a recent high of 406 reported on July 14, according to the dashboard.
The Missouri Foundation for Health grant pays for two community health advocates, who will go door-to-door in areas of Springfield with low vaccination rates. Those advocates are already at work, Schekorra said.
Additionally, people and organizations are invited to become “vaccine champions” to help promote vaccination efforts by sharing information with friends and family.
Since his first days in office, President Joe Biden has advocated door-to-door promotion of the vaccine by “local trusted messengers.” On July 7, Gov. Mike Parson tweeted his opposition to that approach, writing, “I have directed our health department to let the federal government know that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would not be an effective or a welcome strategy in Missouri!”
The White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zientz, responded in a teleconference briefing on July 8 that the outreach work is being led by local doctors, faith leaders and community leaders, and not by federal agents.
Schekorra noted that Parson’s tweet was specifically aimed at having federal employees go door to door, and that is not the case with the department’s campaign.
“At least to my knowledge, he’s never come out and said door-to-door overall is bad,” he said.
Under the newly launched Springfield-Greene County Health Department model, anyone can serve as a vaccine champion to promote the vaccine among acquaintances.
Schekorra said the Finish Strong 417 campaign goal is a 70% rate of full vaccination for county residents.
Since its 1999 debut, the awards program has honored individuals under the age of 40 for their professional and civic work.