Sachs set to ramp up vaccine awareness campaign

Claudia Blackburn, addressing the Statewide Coronavirus Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Task Force on Zoom.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

A group that was formed with its main goal being inoculation of more than 50 percent of the Black population statewide is about to get major help with a public information blitz intended to reduce hesitancy to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ron Sachs, CEO of Sachs Media, told the Statewide Coronavirus Vaccination Community Education and Engagement Task Force during its virtual meeting last Thursday that his firm will launch a public awareness campaign by next week. In addition to using radio and television, information about trusting the vaccine will be available on a website (www. safeandhealthybigbend.com).

“This is intended to educate, not advocate but certainly educate people to help them through some of the pain points and resistance issues that have some people concerned about taking the vaccine,” Sachs said.

He also said that the campaign will encompass much of the information that is already circulating about the importance in talking the vaccine. Some of the production work for what will be featured on the website took place at City Hall, Sachs said.

At the same time that Sachs was delivering information about the campaign, the group’s leader, Rev. RB Holmes was on a conference call with the White House’ coronavirus team. Since its inception, the group said it would seek to engage President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force in its state initiative.

Holmes spoke with Cedric Richmond, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

“The meeting was productive and positive,” Holmes said. “We will continue to work closely with the White House to hopefully implement one of the key objectives of the task force to encourage 70 percent of African Americans and other minorities to get vaccinated by the end of the year.”

Sachs said a local survey showed there is high resistance among young people, Blacks and Hispanics to being vaccinated. That was backed up by Claudia Blackburn, an official with Leon County Health Department.

She said 72 percent of the prioritized population age 65 and older is yet to be vaccinated, but overall only 11.7 percent of those vaccinated are Black.

“That includes healthcare workers, workers in long-term care facilities and residents in long-term care facilities,” she said. “At this point, we are at 31.4 percent of Blacks that are 65 and over that have been vaccinated so I think that’s the number you want to hang onto.

“It is up from the last time we talk. I think we were at 23 or 24 percent so it’s coming up, but still not at 72 percent, which is the total population.”

 As of last Thursday when Blackburn reported to the task force, all of the vaccination sites in Tallahassee reported a combined 43,526 people had taken the shot. At least 17,311 individuals have gotten one of the required two doses, she said.

Seemingly not all the eligible people 65 and older have hesitance issues with the vaccine. Some are simply living in isolated areas such as the Fairbanks Ferry area near the Ochlockonee River.

Others, such as elderly living in Black communities, don’t have transportation to vaccination sites. But Blackburn said a handful of small churches have expressed a willingness to help get the vaccine out.

“We are going to have to think of creative ways to get to people; to get in neighborhoods,” said Elaine Bryant, director of the task force. “We have to press that as a No. 1 priority.”

Bryant, however, said that it will take a coordinated effort to get to people in outskirt areas.

“This takes time, effort and it takes someone actually trying to put this together,” she said. “A coordinated effort has to be put in place such that we can actually move forward.”

There’s also an effort afoot by the task force to launch an awareness campaign similar to what Sachs is kicking off. Sha’ Ron Jones, a member of the task force’s marketing and advertising committee, said the group is working with ESP Media to create an information website.

Still another awareness event is planned with a March 18 town hall. Speakers with include clergy and health officials.

Sachs also encouraged the group to link to the website that his agency is creating. He also said that surrounding areas like Gadsden County are expected to assist with financing the website, along with entities from Tallahassee.

Having a website will help to make sure the message about being vaccinated covers the Big Bend area. 

“The messages is going to go further than just the boundary lines of Leon County and that’s a good thing because it’s going to reinforce safe behaviors,” he said. “When people are educated, they can make better decisions for themselves.”


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