FEMA introduces new community outreach initiative at federally run vaccination sites

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The COVID-19 vaccine remains a want and need for people of all ages.

However, for many in underserved communities, hesitancy and mistrust of the vaccine has remained at the forefront. With a new community outreach initiative, however, FEMA is looking to debunk any myths and provide clarity and peace of mind.

“I was terrified, I’m not going to lie,” Angela Thomas said. “But, if this can help me live a little longer because I have four grandkids ... if this can help me a live a little longer, I’m up for it.”

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Nerves accompanied Angela Thomas today as she got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. She says part of that came from a lack of trust.

“Not knowing what to expect, and I think with the Black community, we’re not sure what we’re given, whether they’re experimenting, I didn’t know,” she said.

According to the Florida Department of Health, over 151,000 people have been vaccinated in Duval county. Of that, over 86,000 are white and just around 25,000 are Black. Dr. Ross jones of UF Health Jacksonville says side effects from the vaccine have proven to be the same for everybody, and the risk of going unvaccinated is even worse.

“When we look at hospitalization rates, it’s almost two times as likely compared to white Americans for African Americans or Hispanic patients to be hospitalized or die from COVID, so I think we know the risk of going unvaccinated,” he said.

FEMA spokesperson Kimber Kipp says the community outreach groups will connect with both community and faith-based organizations within a two-mile radius of the three federally run vaccination sites.

“Make people feel more aware of what the vaccines are and what they can and can not do,” Kipp said.

Thomas says these outreach groups could be beneficial.

“Hopefully, it does protect me a lot more,” she said. “I know it’s not 100% ever, but at least I’m doing something.”

FEMA spokesperson tells Action News Jax that with their numbers not being what they expected from the start, they’re hoping this can help get more people out the door for a safer community.

QUICK LINKS: How to make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in the Jacksonville area