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In many Greater Cincinnati communities, the annual county fair is a highlight of the summer or early fall. It offers a chance to show livestock, sample foods and play games.
As they considered ways to increase COVID-19 vaccination among the county's rural residents, the staff at the Dearborn County Health Department decided to offer the vaccine at the county's fair, held June 21-26 in Lawrenceburg.
"A lot of our county is rural, and we're trying to do outreach to those people who may not often come into town," said Amy Rose, who managed the project for the health department. "We thought the fair would be the perfect place to catch these members of our community and get them vaccinated."
Interact for Health funded the project via its COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach. The foundation committed almost $500,000 to 18 vaccine projects in the region.
In this case, Interact for Health's funding allowed the Dearborn County 4-H Association to provide $10 vouchers for food at the fair to those who were vaccinated, and to promote the vaccine drive on local radio station Eagle 99.3.
A total of 97 people were vaccinated during the fair, Rose said. She noted that having trusted local public health staff offer the shots motivated those who got vaccinated, and that the radio promotion helped raise awareness and trust.
However, some people still expressed hesitancy about vaccination, Rose said. Health department staff had to address misinformation that people had read on social media, such as that the vaccine gives you diabetes. Other reasons given for declining to get vaccinated included the perception that those who'd been infected with COVID-19 did not need to get vaccinated (it's recommended that they still do so) and that the vaccine was a tool for government tracking.
Rose and her team asked those who were vaccinated what swayed them to get the shot at the fair. Several said they were motivated by recent guidance that vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in public. Others said that after working remotely, they were scheduled to return to in person work, and thus would have more exposure to others.
Originally, Dearborn County Health Department staff had hoped to reach 600 people over the course of the six-day fair, but they are satisfied with the results they achieved.
"We can't rely on people turning to WebMD or Facebook for information on COVID-19 vaccines," Rose said. "Community outreach is so important."
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