Section: Features

Mount Vernon library receives grant for vaccine education

COURTESY OF KNOX PAGES

The Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County has been granted over $37,000 by Communities for Immunity — a program aimed to support libraries and museums in areas with residents who mistrust the vaccine. The funding is intended to educate the community on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Library is sponsoring educational programs and vaccine clinics now through mid-March.

Communities for Immunity is supported by the Association of Science and Technology Centers in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The program’s grassroots approach equips community-trusted organizations with the resources to help community members make informed decisions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The programs range from vaccination clinics to educational workshops on the efficacy of the vaccine. The workshops include communication-building sessions designed to equip people with the skills to talk to family and loved ones about the vaccine and “Do Your Own Research,” which teaches local residents how to conduct research on the internet to discern trustworthy information. The wide array of programming is intended to have a broad reach on the community and to help people with different areas of uncertainty. In addition, the Library runs a “Talk the Vax” program with Knox Pages, highlights people who have overcome vaccine hesitancy and COVID-19 survivors on social media and provides local churches with a “Christians and the Vaccine” toolkit. 

As a Mount Vernon local, Literary and Writing Programs Manager of the Public Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County Jamie Lyn Smith-Fletcher ’96 took on this project to help the people in her community struggling in the face of the pandemic. “It hit my family and friends very, very hard,” she said. 

According to Knox Public Health (KPH), only 42% of Knox County residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to the national rate of roughly 60%. Knox County has recorded a total of over 12,400 cases with 190 deaths due to the disease. 

Smith-Fletcher suggested that misinformation, as well as other factors, may account for the low vaccination rate and lack of vaccine confidence. She has also observed that, in both Knox County and throughout the nation, misinformation is often spread through word of mouth in tight-knit communities and by trusted leaders. “Seeing misinformation move through religious communities, clergy and elected officials, was really my breaking point,” she said.

The Library teamed up with other local organizations, including KPH, Ohio Eastern Star Home, New Directions, Knox County Community Hospital and Interchurch Social Services, to educate people on the science of the vaccine and to improve the health of the county. The Library and the community partners seek to counter misinformation with well-researched scientific data and facts that support the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Smith-Fletcher, the programs have been very successful so far. On Saturday, Jan. 22, the Library held its first vaccination clinic. Fourteen people received vaccinations, and to Smith-Fletcher, that’s 14 lives saved.

Jess Horwitch ’24, an intern for the Library’s Communities for Immunity, is working to make information regarding vaccinations and misinformation accessible to members of Knox County. She promotes the Library’s social media pages, which are another accessible way for people to find reliable information regarding the vaccine and learn how to talk to people with opposing views. “[There are] a bunch of resources if you’re looking to talk to someone who may have been vaccine hesitant or you’re just looking to inform yourself,” she said.

Other upcoming Library events include a vaccination clinic on Feb. 12, which will offer first doses, second doses and boosters. There are prizes ranging up to $50 for people getting their first dose of the vaccine, and Knox Area Transit (KAT) will provide a free ride to the clinic.

Additional programs to improve vaccine confidence can be found at www.knox.net. Mount Vernon’s Communities for Immunity program is also on all major social media platforms as plmvkc.cfi. If you are interested in getting involved with the Library’s involvement with Communities for Immunity, you can reach out to Smith-Fletcher at knoxwrites1@gmail.com, contact KPH or reach out to the Knox Community Hospital for volunteer opportunities.

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