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Photo of covid vaccine center.
OSU Extension educators volunteer at a county vaccination day by serving food, answering questions and helping patients fill out forms. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)

OSU Extension partners with communities in fight against COVID-19

Thursday, January 28, 2021

As the COVID-19 vaccine is distributed statewide, Oklahoma State University Extension employees are lending a helping hand across the state’s 77 counties.

Although rollout of the vaccine has been slow on both federal and state levels, county health departments are springing into action when doses become available. In most instances, officials are given only a few days’ notice to establish a point of dispensing, or POD. Those community stations are designated for the allocation of medical countermeasures during a public health emergency and often include county facilities where Extension offices are located.

When Jefferson County Health Department officials needed help establishing a POD, Extension staff partnered with community groups to organize a vaccine distribution event at the fairgrounds. Members of the Ryan FFA chapter set up tables and chairs, and the Waurika FFA helped clean up at the end of the day.

“I like to volunteer, and this is for a good purpose,” said Tara Brown, Jefferson County 4-H and family and consumer sciences educator. “COVID-19 is a disabling disease, and we as a nation can help alleviate it.”

Brown and members of the staff bundled up and wore masks to work triage, walking through the line of vehicles to answer questions and provide information as people waited to receive the vaccine.

“While social distancing, it was an opportunity to share useful details about OSU Extension and what we’re doing in our county,” Brown said. “It was a good, cooperative effort. We helped our partners and distributed sound, researched-based information to the community.”

In neighboring Stephens County, Megan Monteith, FCS southwest area specialist in health disparities, and a fellow Extension employee volunteered during their county’s POD date. They helped residents fill out patient forms and acquire their vaccine cards.

Photo of Extension volunteers.
Pontotoc County health care workers begin their day of administering vaccinations with a breakfast served by Extension educators. (Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services)

“We were the first stop for patients as they entered the fairgrounds,” she said. “We answered questions, explained vaccine materials and provided information on OSU Extension and our services.”

Janna Kelley, the 4-H and FCS educator in Pontotoc County, also provided Extension support when her local health department organized a vaccine event at the county’s Agri-Plex facility. She and her colleagues served a weekly breakfast to 130 health care workers and volunteers who worked eight-hour shifts administering 1,250 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“The health department is one of our big community partners, and it takes all of us to help,” Kelley said. “It makes me proud we can help our community get back to normal.”

A nutritious breakfast and a moment of appreciation goes a long way to support the medical professionals distributing such critical vaccinations, said Stephens County Public Health Specialist Chris Mann.

“There’s no way we can do this without community partners,” he said. “Our health department staff is very limited, and POD events take about 90 people including county officials and Extension staff.”

From routine flu shot clinics to emergency COVID-19 vaccinations, county Extension offices are effective community resources serving with heart and purpose.

“We just want to be part of the solution,” Kelley said.

For more information, visit vaccinate.oklahoma.gov or follow the Oklahoma Health Department on Facebook.

OSU Extension is one of two state agencies administered by the university’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and is a key part of OSU’s state and federally mandated teaching, research and Extension land-grant mission.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gail Ellis | Agricultural Communications Services | 620-515-2498 | gail.ellis@okstate.edu

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