Albany State University Seeks to Address Vaccine Hesitancy

Albany State University (ASU) President Marion Ross Fedrick hosted Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) Dr. Kathleen Toomey on Friday, April 23 with a meeting of the Pastors of the Albany Coalition of Churches.

Pastor Coalition

In March, President Fedrick was appointed to Georgia’s COVID-19 Health Equity Council, which helps DPH increase the effectiveness of its public health programs statewide, ensure equity in COVID-19 vaccination distribution and administration, and improve outreach and communication within Georgia communities most affected by COVID-19.

“By meeting with leaders in our faith community, who not only have influence, but the community’s best interest at heart, we are one step closer to effectively educating our community about the vaccine and other opportunities to remain healthy,” said President Fedrick. “This is a critical initiative to support our community.”

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss actions to improve vaccination rates in the Albany-Dougherty community. Specifically, attendees discussed their respective roles in educating the community about the short and long-term benefits of vaccinating, identifying barriers influencing the low vaccination rate and determining ways to further educate and expand access to the vaccine.

The meeting was the first in a series of vaccination awareness and education initiatives that President Fedrick will coordinate as a member Georgia’s COVID-19 Health Equity Council. These sessions will cover a number of topics regarding overall health equity, with an immediate focus on addressing vaccine concerns within communities of color and those that have high rates of core morbidities.  

“It was a privilege to participate in the meeting at Albany State University convened by President Fedrick with community and faith leaders. I heard innovative and creative suggestions about how we in Georgia Public Health can better support vaccination efforts in the community (including providing vaccinations at Churches, community events, and even at commercial sites). I heard about the importance of developing focused communication assets that we could make available to faith leaders and others to share with their parishioners, friends, and family members,” said Dr. Toomey. 

“Whether through text messages or other media outreach – we can help support better understanding in Albany about the value of vaccines, the evidence of how the vaccines work, and how to find an easily accessible vaccination site. We welcome additional suggestions about ways we can provide expanded support and vaccination outreach through mobile vans and “pop up” sites.  My sincere gratitude to President Fedrick for initiating – and helping us continue – these important community discussions in Albany to expand vaccination coverage there – and throughout Georgia,” she added.

Dr. Daniel Simmons, Mt. Zion Baptist Church senior pastor and coalition leader said, "Members of the faith community felt encouraged and energized by the meeting. The honest and open exchange of ideas helped us better understand the problems we face as well as possible solutions. The meeting crystallized the fact that we can never overcome the challenges our community face without the involvement of the total community. President Fedrick and her staff are to be commended for their passion and desire to bring about equality and equity in healthcare. Dr. Toomey restored our faith in the state's healthcare system's desire and ability to help our community overcome barriers to quality and equitable health care."