Wake County enhancing COVID-19 vaccine outreach to target specific neighborhoods

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- In Wake County, health officials are getting much more tactical about vaccinating as many people as possible against COVID-19.

The NC Dept. of Health and Human Services revealed Tuesday the new tool it is using to increase equitable vaccine distribution across the state.

The census tract COVID-19 mapping system is the same tool Wake County Public Health is using to target specific communities where vaccinations are lagging.

Beginning in June, two neighborhoods in Raleigh will see an influx of public health staff, known as vaccination strike teams, on the ground in their communities.

"We're having to be more tactical about where are the holes in Wake County," said Stacy Beard, communications lead for Wake County's vaccination team. "Why are we not seeing vaccination rates higher in this area? Well, maybe it's because people just need it brought to them. So let's bring it."

In the beginning, when vaccine supply was low, people lined up at clinics to get their shots. But now that vaccine supply is plentiful and everyone, 12 years old and up, is eligible for a vaccine, Beard said demand is dropping and the county needs to get more strategic.

Using the mapping tool, Beard said the county decided to begin its targeted outreach in two locations in Raleigh-both covering a five-mile radius from the Wake County Public Health Dept. at 10 Sunnybrook Road and the human services building at 5809 Departure Drive.

"We figured well, we're doing shots right there. Why not hit a five-mile radius?" Beard said.

Teams will set up in those areas, perhaps outside grocery stores or other spaces where foot traffic is high, and be prepared to educate the public on vaccines and answer questions and concerns people may have.

From there, the teams will be able to point people to those nearby brick-and-mortar vaccination sites.

For when the county moves on to target other areas that are vaccine deserts, they'll have two mobile units ready to deploy.

"I think that's how we're going to do it," Beard said. "It's much slower, right? I loved being able to say we broke a record at PNC. We're not going to break records, but slowly and methodically, day over day, we're going to get Wake County vaccinated. It's just going to take a little more time."

Ryan Jury, Wake County Mass Vaccination Branch Director, said that as of last week, more than 67 percent of residents had at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, nearing President. Joe Biden's goal of 70 percent vaccinated by July 4.

"I think Wake County has a wonderful story to tell," he said. "When we look at the data, Wake County is at the forefront of vaccination here in the state."

But Jury and his team are adamant now is not the time to let up.

"We don't want our excitement to lead people to think we're done," Beard said. "The fall is an unknown for all of us and why not take that step to make sure you're not out of work, that you don't get someone else that hasn't been vaccinated sick? Get your shot. Right now, it's so easy. It's everywhere and now we're gonna bring it to you."
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.