Valentine’s Kickoff Vaccination Event Set for Feb. 12 in Savannah

J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center, Healthy Savannah/YMCA of Coastal Georgia, and the Georgia Department of Health Coastal Health District hope you’ll share the gift of health with those you love.

Those organizations have joined together to invite the public to a Kickoff Vaccination Event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12 at J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center, 5 Mall Way located behind Oglethorpe Mall in Savannah. Flu and COVID-19 testing and vaccines will be offered to eligible adults and children.

“COVID vaccines are one of the most important medical breakthroughs in recent history,” said Dr. Bonzo Reddick, chair of the Department of Community Medicine, and a professor in the Community Medicine and Family Medicine departments at Mercer University School of Medicine in Savannah. Reddick also practices at the J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center.

“Almost all of the hospitalizations and deaths from COVID are in people who have not received the vaccine,” Reddick added. “It is important for everyone age 5 and up, unless you have a medical exemption, to be vaccinated so that we can put an end to this pandemic once and for all.”

The event will also feature food trucks, N-95 mask giveaways, and other door prizes. Adults who get vaccinations additionally have the opportunity to be entered into prize drawings.

State data on COVID vaccination rates show that 51 percent of Black people have now received at least one COVID vaccine dose, compared to 53 percent for white people and 51 percent for Hispanic people.

“In Savannah’s Black and Hispanic communities, there is a history of mistrust in the arena of public health which is reflected in lower vaccination rates and higher risk of severe illness for those groups,” said Nichele Hoskins, communication manager. “Our goal is to ensure that people have opportunities to access the COVID vaccine and to gather information on COVID and flu so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.”

Funded in part by a supplemental grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this effort was developed to broaden the initiatives of the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant by increasing vaccine access, awareness, and acceptance in Chatham County’s communities at high risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID or flu.

The CDC reports that getting a COVID vaccination is a safer way to build protection than getting sick with COVID since the vaccination creates an antibody response without having to experience sickness. The CDC also reports the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40 percent to 60 percent. During the 2019-2020 flu season, the CDC estimates that vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, 105,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths.

“In addition to our sponsors and partners, we have a great group of volunteer community health advocates who were trained during the fall and are now helping educate and inform people about COVID and flu vaccine awareness and acceptance across our community,” said Elsie Smalls, Ph.D., operations manager. “We are currently seeking applications for the second cohort of the community health advocate program.”

The new group will undergo online training in March to be able to take easily understood, science-based information into the community this spring. In addition to the $500 stipend they’ll receive for completing the program, the advocates will have the opportunity to sharpen their leadership skills, learn about health advocacy, and add outreach experience to their resumes.

Organizers say the Valentine’s Kickoff Vaccination Event will be held rain or shine under tents in a large outdoor area near the Mall library, but in the event of severe weather, an alternate date or location may be selected. No appointments are necessary. For more information, contact Jamar Frink at 912-495-8887 or jfrink@jclewishealth.org.

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