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Baltimore City partners with higher-education institution to address coronavirus vaccine hesitancy, outreach

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa announced Wednesday a partnership with a handful of the area’s higher-education institutions to create listening sessions and educational materials to help address concerns of vaccine access and hesitancies in the city.

The partnership with Morgan State University, the Maryland Institute College of Art Center for Social Design and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s International Vaccine Access Center has formed committees focused on the specific concerns of various groups, including residents who are older, homeless, disabled or pregnant, as well as the city’s immigrant, Latino and Orthodox Jewish communities. The first listening sessions are scheduled for Friday.

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“As a City, we must continue to lead and develop partnerships that will benefit our residents and reach [our] most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Scott said in a statement. “Forging new partnerships that lead to innovation in outreach and education are a major step in this critical fight to understand access issues and to address vaccine hesitancy among different segments of our population.”

In a statement, Dzirasa said “the International Vaccine Access Center’s wealth of knowledge in addressing vaccine hesitancy, Morgan State University’s ties to the community and influence across Baltimore City, and the Maryland Institute College of Art Center for Social Design incredible creative talents” will combine to make the partnership effective in easing residents’ concerns about the coronavirus vaccine.

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As of Wednesday morning, Baltimore ranks 22nd of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions in the percentage of their respective populations that has received at least one dose of the vaccine at 8.3%. The city ranks 14th in percentage of residents who have received the needed two doses to be considered fully vaccinated.

The listening sessions will allow residents to hear from what the city said will be “their neighbors and trusted messengers in their communities about the importance of getting the vaccine when they are able and to combat myths and misinformation about the vaccine.” The sessions will also help residents connect to needed health and social support resources.

“Engaging the community to co-design approaches to build trust in vaccination and institutions is an important step forward,” Lois Privor-Dumm, director of Adult Vaccines at International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a statement. “We can bring knowledge of the vaccine, but the community knows their own context and how best to use that knowledge. It’s not solely about vaccination — it’s about people and how they access information and make decisions.”

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