The Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department is working with a local advertising agency on a campaign to boost public confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine, especially in some of the most vulnerable communities.
Part of the Bucket Media campaign will target vaccine hesitancy in Black and brown communities, said Scott Clardy, assistant director of Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services.
"Video was shot last week and we hope to have it out quickly," Clardy said. "I'm really excited about it."
Besides video, the campaign will include a community forum on vaccine confidence called "Let's Talk: COVID Vaccine and the Black Community." The forum will be held online Feb. 24 and will be moderated by Verna Laboy, a health educator at the department.
The health department is scheduling a similar event for the Spanish-speaking community.
Black Missourians are much more skeptical than other groups that the vaccine will be distributed fairly, according to a poll by the Missouri Hospital Association. But roughly 60% of Black Missourians surveyed said they were likely to get vaccinated.
Similar polls nationwide have recorded lower rates of vaccine confidence than those reported in Missouri. A Pew Research 2020 report showed less than half of Black Americans surveyed planned to get the vaccine.
According to the CDC website, Black Americans are almost three times as likely to be hospitalized and almost twice as likely to die from COVID-19. The disparity isn't due to any genetic difference but rather environmental and social factors, adding up to systemic racism. Black households tend to be larger, and many people within them rely on public transport and work high-contact jobs.
Other intersecting factors include the Black community's more limited access to health care and higher likelihood of underlying health conditions.
A little over 12% of Boone County's Black community is uninsured, according to Columbia/Boone County's 2018 health assessment. Black residents are more likely to die from conditions such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. According to that report, nearly 3,900 Black residents of Boone County were living in poverty in 2018.
The health department campaign will utilize multiple forms of media, including social media, print, radio, streaming audio, television, digital video and online ads.
"While we want to reach all Boone County residents, we have some specific folks we want to reach, including the Black community, the Hispanic community and our rural folks," said Sara Humm, public information specialist for the health department.
Another goal is simply to raise residents' comfort level when it comes to the vaccine, especially about its safety and how and where to get it.
"That's especially important, for example, with our Black community members because of the longstanding issues with mistrust and medical abuse within the health field," Humm said.
The health department will have Black and Hispanic medical professionals answer questions and listen to residents' concerns during the forums.
Secondary messaging will also emphasize COVID-19 prevention, which will encourage social distancing, wearing masks and hand-washing.
Bucket Media referred all questions about the campaign to the health department.