The Knox County Health Board is doubling down on efforts to reach a younger demographic.
With eligibility for the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine now open to those 18 and older, the health department is looking to spread the word amongst younger people.
“Up until now, we’ve had people busting through the door,” county heath officer Dr. Alan Stewart said of the older people desperately wanting the COVID-19 vaccine. “But things are really slowing down now, so we think a marketing campaign is necessary.”
Sanitarian Madeline Hatcher recently created a 42-second video, one featuring a variety of young people, encouraging them to consider getting the vaccine.
The ending message: “The only thing we want you to spread is this message.”
As a handful of those 20 and under have trickled into the health department’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Community United Methodist Church on Hart Street Road over the last week, many of them are surprised that it comes at no cost — or that an appointment isn’t necessary.
Hatcher said she hears those falsities among young people out in the community as well.
“I tell them, ‘it does not cost anything, and you don’t need an appointment. Just come on in,’ ” she told the board.
Yet many of them, it seems, still aren’t getting the message, so she is looking to social media and streaming services to share her video.
The board approved her spending some of its COVID-19-specific grant funds on such efforts, including an estimated $500 spot on the popular streaming service Hulu.
She’s already shared the video to the health department’s own social media pages, placed an ad on Snapchat — as well as a filter people can use to share photos of themselves having received the vaccine — and on YouTube, all areas where she hopes to reach young people.
She also wants to reach a bit beyond Knox County’s borders as many people have come to the Vincennes clinic from larger cities, ones like Evansville, Indianapolis and Bloomington, because they’ve heard getting a vaccine here is easier. And health board members were all for it.
“It’s very important we get this message out, especially to that demographic,” said Don Fredrick. “And it reinforces to them that the shots cost you nothing.”
Hatcher, too, said she’s been encouraging people to come with friends, even in groups, anything to make getting a vaccine a social, more comfortable event — basically whatever it takes to get them in the door.
Many, she said, are confused about misinformation they’ve read on social media, and getting the vaccine can be a somewhat scary — yet hopeful — experience.
“It’s just easier with a friend,” she said.
“This is the time to do it,” Stewart added. “And it’s important for our community to get (this information) out there.”
Stewart, too, said he’s been watching closely as both Moderna and Pfizer, which is available to those 16 and over, inch ever closer to gaining approval from the FDA for those even younger. He expects that by summertime, both the health department’s clinic and that at Good Samaritan, which is administering Pfzier, will be vaccinating school-age children.
In the meantime, Good Samaritan’s clinic took vaccines on the road to Lincoln High School Tuesday where nearly 100 students, those 18 years old, received vaccines. Another clinic is planned for next week at South Knox Middle High School, and the hope is to get to all of the area’s high schools before the end of the school year.
In other business, the board gave final approval to a tuition reimbursement plan, one they hope will serve as an incentive to come work there.
Under this new plan, full-time employees at the health department are eligible for up half the annual cost of tuition up to $2,000. Part-time employees would be eligible for up to $750 annually.
The department, too, will cover the cost of any required exams — twice.