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UTHSC receives $377,000 in funding towards COVID-19 vaccine education in rural Tennessee

The Memphis-based research hospital is using the money to educate residents in rural west Tennessee counties on the vaccine.
Credit: WATN

MEMPHIS, Tenn — With $377,000 from the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability (TCAD), faculty and staff in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s (UTHSC) College of Nursing are on the ground three days a week in six rural west Tennessee counties, offering education on the COVID-19 vaccine to residents.

UTHSC said in many rural counties in the region, the percentage of people who have received two doses of vaccine hovers around 40% or less. Nationally, the number is 64%.

"People have gotten information about the vaccines from various sources like social media or simply conversations around a neighbor’s kitchen table," said Diana Dedmon, director of clinical affairs and the Michael Carter endowed professor at UTHSC. "We want to offer trusted information from the Centers for Disease Control and the Tennessee Department of Health, and let people make their own decisions."

RELATED: UTHSC & UCH to open COVID-19 testing site starting Wednesday

According to UTHSC, teams of two nurses each will be in the rural communities through September 2022, building relationships through chambers of commerce, churches and civic groups in Dyer, Lake, Tipton, Lauderdale, Fayette and underserved parts of Shelby County.

Students in the UTHSC nursing program will assist with the effort this spring.

The research hospital said these nurses are looking for the specific need in each community and tailoring the education to fit.

"We want to be respectful, deliver the needed education, answer questions, and allow residents to make an informed decision about the COVID vaccination," Dedmon said. 

"The whole process has been a rich learning experience," she said. "Counties right beside each other have completely different perspectives. It’s about knowing the population and developing a message that is appropriate to the people you are trying to serve. And we don’t know what that need might be until we develop relationships and get to know the people in each community."

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