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White House to meet with TN faith, non-profit leaders on vaccine hesitancy

Tennessee ranks 46th in state COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The country is on pace to narrowly miss President Joe Biden's goal of having 70% of the population at least partially vaccinated by July 4. Numbers are currently at 65%.

On Monday, White House representatives will meet with Tennessee faith and non-profit leaders to take a look at the vaccine hesitancy happening across the state. 

The representatives are with the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships which is looking at states with the lowest vaccination rates. Tennessee ranks 46th in state efforts to get shots in arms. Shelby County has hit 55% of its goal to vaccinate 700,000 people.

“Vaccine hesitancy in Memphis is pretty bad," Momentum Nonprofits CEO Kevin Dean said. "Numbers are embarrassingly low. The fact that the White House is trying to reach out and work on a local community level I think is really important because you can’t do everything from the top you have to rely on a lot of different coalitions.”

Dean was invited to speak at the meeting to talk about the importance of non-profit voices, share resources, talk about what efforts are underway and what help they need. Momentum Nonprofits is a collective that serves many non-profits throughout the Mid-South. The goal, Dean said, is to show more collaboration between government and non-profits is needed.

“Government needs to rely heavier on non-profits, a trusted voice in the community," he said. "We have daily interactions with the people most affected by this. They’re going to listen to us re they listen to somebody who comes into their community from the outside government official or whomever.”

He said the pandemic has been a teaching moment that non-profits need to be invited to the table at the beginning.

"Not at the end, when we can’t get vaccinated but at the beginning, so we can give feedback, we can speak on behalf of the communities we serve and we can talk about the strategies we’re already doing that maybe can be replicated," he said.

Dean said one hope of the meeting is to help national efforts to start a White House non-profit liaison department that can help serve as a guiding light.

“If we can really show them how important non-profits are in this and tackling other big issues we might end up with a new department that actually might be the coordinating efforts between non-profits and government," he said.

The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Central time on Monday.