According to the Mississippi Department of Health, as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, 54% of Washington County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination and 48% of the county is fully vaccinated.
During their regular Monday meeting, the Board of Supervisors engaged in a discussion stemming from an update on a federal grant awarded to the county in the amount of roughly $3 million to be used for the improvement of health literacy and to increase vaccination rates across the county and surrounding Delta communities.
Stephanie Patton, executive director for Delta Health System’s Health System Development, reiterated the grant was provided through the Office of Minority Health (OMH) at the Office of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“Last July, we were awarded the basic health literacy grant with HHS. The county was the lead applicant, but Delta Health System helped facilitate the grant and bring the partners together,” she said. “Mississippi Valley State is our evaluation partner, Aaron E. Henry is our training partner and the Mississippi Department of Health helps with data and statistics that we may need.”
Patton also introduced Chad Neal, who has been appointed as Director of Health Equity Initiatives for DHS.
Their first charge was to formulate a plan according to the standards of OMH.
“They wanted some very specific data and research to show what your target population looked like and what your plan is going to be so we have developed an impact statement and a health literacy plan and the folks at Valley have done a really good job with the evaluation plan,” Patton said.
She highlighted that Washington County was one of only three entities in the state to be awarded the grant.
“The whole purpose of the grant is to educate people on the importance of getting the vaccine and specifically talking to the minority populations within an 11-county region of the Delta,” she added. “So we kind of have a big area to get to but we’ve got a plan and we’re excited about that.”
The Delta Fax About the Vax website is one of the ways information about the vaccine will be disseminated, but, according to Patton, the county can expect to see more grassroots and boots on the ground efforts in communities where there’s a low vaccination rate.
When District 1 Supervisor Lee Gordon inquired about what the vaccination rate is in Washington County currently, Patton said it is significantly lower than the national average and is one of the reasons the county received the grant.”
BOS President Carl McGee asked Patton based on the data, whether lack of access or just reluctance contributed to the county’s low vaccination rate.
“It’s kind of a perfect storm of different things. The data that we have been looking at says it’s a combination of access and one is bad information,” she responded.
The other 10 rural counties included in the literacy grant are Bolivar, Coahoma, Humphreys, Issaquena, Leflore, Sharkey, Sunflower, Quitman, Tate and Tunica.