U of M students work to encourage community members hesitant about COVID-19 vaccine

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Efforts to get more people vaccinated in Memphis and Shelby County might just be a phone call away.   

Students hired by a private company at the University of Memphis are calling people encouraging them to get vaccinated, answering any questions they may have.

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They operate a phone bank at UMRF, Inc.  

Tayra Jackson is one of the supervisors and a nursing student at the U of M.  

“Just trying to provide as much education to them as possible, answering any question they might have,” Jackson said. “Just being a support. That is what a lot of people need right now.”

UMRF recruited students from the school of public health and health care sciences to call people during the day in zip codes where vaccination rates are low. They follow a script that identifies who they are and the point of the call.

Jackson said, “then you ask them ‘have you received your COVID 19 vaccine?’ Hopefully, they have.  But if not, the goal at the end of that call is that they want to get vaccinated.”

Pierre Landaiche, III is the CEO of UMRF Ventures, Inc. He believes the effort can help the city of Memphis vaccinate more people who are on the fence. 

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Landaiche told us, “we are getting very close to getting the community where we need it to be relative to the vaccine. We want to do everything we can to help the city push over that edge to get us all vaccinated.”

According to the Shelby County Health Department, 54 percent of the people living in the county have been vaccinated.  The goal is to reach 70percent.

This project, funded in part by the city of Memphis, will help reach that goal. 

“These students want to make health care their career. So they are invested in this project for that reason,” said Landaiche.

FOX13 asked Jackson if she has ever convinced anyone to get the vaccine when she worked the phone bank?  

“Actually I did. I was able to set up an appointment today. There was a guy.  He was a truck driver and he just needed help setting up an appointment.”

The students will call during business hours.  They are also collecting data about who says yes and no and where they live.

The information is given to the City of Memphis in case they need to tailor the vaccine message to be more effective.

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