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Inside Bexar County's new $300,000 push to get residents vaccinated

The county will buy outdoor advertising space in zip codes with low vaccination rates. It will also target younger, unvaccinated people with social media ads.

SAN ANTONIO — Bexar County commissioners this week approved a plan to spend more than $300,000 on advertising targeting unvaccinated people as the pandemic continues to overwhelm hospitals in Texas and beyond. 

The county will spend more than $100,000 on billboards that say 99.5% of the Texans who have died thus far from COVID-19 were unvaccinated. County Spokesperson Monica Ramos says commissioners hope this statistic will change holdouts' minds. 

"It's kind of to dispel some myths, bring some light and clarity to everything," Ramos said of the larger messaging campaign. "But also, and this is most important, (to) make the vaccine accessible to them."

Vaccination rates are generally lowest in unincorporated areas of Bexar County and near suburban cities outside San Antonio. The outdoor ads will go up in these zip codes. 

The county will also post billboards inside Loop 410, in an attempt to catch commuters headed toward Schertz, Somerset, Atascosa and other suburban communities. 

"Areas out (there) don't necessarily get their information from our typical television stations or radio stations," Ramos said, adding that residents in rural parts of Bexar County rely on community newspapers or social media for their information. 

The county will spend another $200,000 on social media advertising, targeting younger people in largely unvaccinated zip codes. The ads will mirror the billboard messaging, but will offer vaccine sign-up opportunities or redirect users to the nearest vaccine site. 

The county is also working out a plan to send community leaders door-to-door in neighborhoods with low vaccine rates to have personal conversations with holdouts. 

Ramos says doorknockers will tell people that "the vaccine itself is not a miracle, but it is a deterrent and that can help."

The advertising campaign will last three months. Federal pandemic aid will cover the program's costs.

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