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A&M helps give $8.6 million in grants to reduce vaccine hesitancy among Texans

Posted at 3:30 PM, Dec 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-24 16:33:25-05

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M recently announced its partnership with the Department of State Health Services [DSHS] in offering $8.6 million worth of grants to be used by other colleges, nonprofits, and religious organizations — all in an effort of vaccine education.

“The key point of these grants is to have local, trusted community impact," said Olga Rodriguez, chief of staff with Texas A&M's Health science Center. "What are those unique interventions or unique interventions or educational materials that are going to speak to them?”

Dozens of groups all across Texas have already been awarded up to $200,000 each. These groups will use the funding to send out health care educators and educational materials into specific underserved or isolated communities.

“Language barrier is a major issue," said Mona Kafeel, executive director of the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation. "So we go into these grassroots communities with immigrants and refugees, where they have no idea, they don’t speak English. We have 15 languages spoken in our agency.”

The Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation received just under $150,000, which will be used to fund accurate COVID vaccine information for their non-English speaking clientele throughout Plano, and all across the state.

Similarly, down in Galveston, the Episcopal nonprofit St. Vincent’s House will use their funding to educate underserved locals on vaccination.

“We’re going to be doing some focus groups out within the church communities and our locations, trying to understand why there is such a hesitancy, try to explain and give good information," said Paula Tobon, executive director for St. Vincent’s House.

These nonprofit directors said that much of the vaccine hesitancy they’ve uncovered is due to simple misunderstanding, lack of time or transportation, or even the fear that vaccines will cost too much money. Kafeel recalled one instance in which a client quickly changed their mind about the COVID vaccine.

“The social worker who was going around, she just spoke with one mother, a single mother, and literally after three questions – [the mother] literally asked three questions," Kafeel said. "And after those answers she [requested], ‘can you take me now?’

Through social media material, radio programming, and visits by health ambassadors within these communities, these organizations hope to reach people in a way that large government promotions don’t.

The Texas DSHS will be issuing a second round of grants in 2022. For more information, visit the following link:

Texas Vaccine Outreach and Education Grant - Round 1 (tamu.edu)