More vaccines, information on the way to rural areas

KATC went out to the lowest vaccinated area in Acadiana.
Posted at 10:42 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 23:42:20-04

MORSE, La. — Governor John Bel Edwards' office reports that more than 25 percent of Louisianans have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In Acadiana, on average, 13 percent of the population is vaccinated. The southwest area of Acadia Parish has a 2.8 percent vaccination rate, the lowest in Acadiana.

KATC reached out to the mayors of Morse, Mermentau, and Estherwood to see what they’re doing to elevate this rate, and heard back from Ray Richard, mayor of Morse.

He said the people in his town have expressed negative feelings towards the vaccine at meetings.

The lack of vaccination in his area could be from people’s lack of trust in the vaccine or hearing horror stories from neighbors, he said.

With this information, KATC reached out to Dr. Tina Stefanski, the regional medical director for region 4 of the Louisiana Department of Health. She says help is on the way for these rural communities.

She says using parish-by-parish and more precise data, the department can now look into what areas or neighborhoods are being under-served and under-vaccinated.

“Working with our parish and local officials to identify what their issue may be, is it hesitancy? Is it that these may be people with transportation problems, for example, and we need to bring the vaccine closer to them?” said Dr. Stefanski. “That is absolutely part of our strategy.”

Within the next few weeks, the state is getting ready to go to these rural areas, door-by-door, vaccine in hand, to answer any questions that people may have about the vaccine.

She says a lot of people are misinformed about the vaccine and they are gearing up to provide answers.

“With the combination of this 'Get Out the Vaccine' campaign, and kind of grassroots education, and then also us continuing to go these rural communities with the vaccine in hand and the ability to answer questions and vaccinate once people have the information they need, that that’s going to move the rates up," she explained.

Dr. Stefanski says this data is helping the department execute a more refined plan, now that they know where the pockets are.

Plus, the department is ready to answer questions and find out what the root reasons are for people’s hesitancy of the vaccine. Over the next few weeks, there will be a phone bank set up, where residents can call and voice their concerns about the vaccine and get answers.

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