COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Columbia/Boone County Health Department has put together a team to go door-to-door to educate people about the coronavirus vaccine and provide information on upcoming vaccine clinics.
The new ambassador program starting this week is made up of volunteers interested in educating and promoting the vaccination effort. With the delta variant spreading rapidly, officials say vigilance is critical.
The health department had already done some door-to-door outreach and education for vaccination events. After holding an orientation, the department created a team devoted to answering frequently asked questions.
The purpose of the door-to-door approach is to have the ambassadors, the trusted members of the community, reach areas of the city with limited access to vaccines.
Sara Humm, with the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, said the ambassador program has two parts. One goal of the ambassadors is to spread vaccine information with family members, friends and people in their community and answer questions they might have. The other part of the program is the door-to-door canvassing in the areas where the health department is offering clinics, letting people know where they can get vaccinated.
"We want to make sure that our community members that are interested in participating have the tools they need, and feel equipped to answer those questions for the door-to-door campaign. The ambassadors may be people going door-to-door or maybe people that folks recognize from other community events or activities," Humm said.
The 10-member, all-volunteer program members have been trained and gone through orientation.
The approach has been panned by some Missouri politicians, including Gov. Mike Parson, who said he told the state health department to let federal authorities know Missouri would not welcome federal volunteer teams going door-to-door.
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, a Republican who represents much of southern Missouri, compared door-to-door vaccination efforts to the Soviet-era KGB.
But local officials in some areas are undeterred,
Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the city has been working on door-to-door campaigns in an attempt to slow down the surge and improve vaccination numbers throughout the state. Officials have painted a dire picture of the situation in southwest Missouri, saying hospitals and health care workers are being pushed to their limits as more unvaccinated people get sick.
“Public health has been using the door-to-door philosophy for years. It has been a tried and true practice,” McClure said on the program. “Our Springfield-Greene County Health Department has been using it for a long time. But the key is that these are trusted community people. We called up community advocates. It’s down to members the community members will trust in spreading information that is factual and trustworthy.”
Mid-Missouri has not been spared from the virus's increased spread. Boone County has recorded triple-digit cases multiple times in the past week, with new case rates rising to levels last seen in the winter.
As of Friday, there were 614 active COVID-19 cases in Boone County and 85 coronavirus patients hospitalized including people from other counties. Of those cases, 24 are Boone County residents.
New cases in Boone County are up about 51% over the last week, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The county ranks 30th for most cases per capita over the past week.
For the full list of the health departments vaccine clinics this week click here.