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Dallas County working on COVID-19 vaccine awareness campaign to educate skeptics, Judge Jenkins says

Judge Clay Jenkins said the county would focus on communities more likely to get the virus, medical deserts and areas where healthcare options aren't well known.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins

DALLAS, Texas — Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Monday that he and the county's Health and Human Services department will be collaborating with local health professionals and community leaders on a vaccine awareness campaign that will be rolled out soon. 

Jenkins informed WFAA about the campaign as hospitals in Dallas receive and administer their first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. 

A day, that Jenkins underscored as historic. He hopes to get the vaccine to nursing home staff and residents by next week. 

"Once those doses are in our hands, I promise you that they won't sit on the shelf for very long," Jenkins said. 

But Jenkins is also preparing to battle skeptics of the vaccine. 

An ABC News/Ipso poll released Monday found that 15% of Americans would refuse to take the vaccine outright while 40% would take it right away, and 44% percent said they would wait. 

That's despite the vaccine having a 95% rate of efficacy. 

To better numbers like that, Jenkins said that the county will be working to launch a vaccine awareness campaign throughout the region. 

The goal, Jenkins said, would be to educate skeptics and prepare them when it's their turn to get vaccinated. 

"The facts are this, this vaccine is safe and it's very effective," Jenkins said. 

"I'll take it without hesitation." 

Jenkins said he would be leaning on advertisements, town halls, and meetings involving community leaders. 

RELATED: Environment services worker at Methodist Dallas is first to receive Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine

The focus would be on communities more likely to get the virus based on cultural geography, medical deserts, and areas where healthcare options aren't well known. 

"We'll be relying on the faith community, the medical community, doctors who are from communities of color, and the hospitals as well as pharmacies," Jenkins said. 

Jenkins said he may look to influencers or trusted voices in the area to help spread the vaccine message too. 

"It's really an all hands on deck sort of thing so that people know about it and aren't afraid to take it," Jenkins said. 

"It's a matter of getting the facts out from trusted voices that people will listen to." 

To achieve herd immunity, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has said that about 70% of the population or more needs to be vaccinated. 

RELATED: ‘It brings a lot of hope’: First North Texans to receive coronavirus vaccine call it a step toward normalcy

For Doctors John Silva and Stuart Flynn, being prepared before the public takes the vaccine is critical to herd immunity. 

"We can predict pretty closely where people will be hesitant to take the vaccine," Silva said. 

Silva is a retired Air Force colonel who spent years in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He mainly focused on stopping anti-bioterrorism efforts from small radicalized factions. 

He was the architect of DARPA's cloud-based biosurveillance system called the Biosurveillance Ecosystem.    

Now, he helps lead UT Arlington's Multi-Interprofessional Center for Health Informatics and Intelligence.  

Flynn founded the Fort Worth School of Medicine. 

Both are urging a similar awareness campaign in Tarrant County.

"Waltzing in with the vaccines on the first day, well you're not going to have success," Flynn said. "I cannot overemphasize that enough. An educational component, that's really what it's about."   

RELATED: Tarrant County prepares for first deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines

Silva echoed that statement. 

"We need to go into communities before the needles come," Silva said. "We need to engage with people about what this virus does and here are the vaccines you could take if you want to." 

"If you're prepared, that really adds to the community." 

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