Programs helping close Indian River County vaccination gap

Programs helping close Indian River County vaccination gap

Indian River County ranks in the top five in the state by percentage of seniors vaccinated.

That's partly due to the number of outreach efforts to make sure underserved communities are not overlooked.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus

It has been a rough year for Gifford resident Johnny Parchment.

"I just had surgery on my neck for stage-four cancer," he said.

The former Palm Beach County firefighter now lives in Indian River County and doesn't want to fear getting COVID-19.

"I'm hoping to get an appointment where I can get my vaccination shots because I'm at high risk due to the cancer," Parchment said.

So, he came out to the Historic Macedonia Church this week to see Freddie Woolfork.

The Old Macedonia Church in Gifford, Fla., is a site where eligible residents can sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Old Macedonia Church in Gifford, Fla., is a site where eligible residents can sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Woolfork works with the Gifford Youth Achievement Center, but his latest achievement these days is getting people like Parchment signed up for vaccinations.

"You give me a hundred appointments, I'll find a hundred people to sign up," Woolfork said.

Indian River County boasts a 67 percent senior vaccination rate and a 25 percent vaccination rate overall.

However, the Black community, which makes up nearly 10 percent of the overall population, is getting its shots at a far lower rate of just about 2.5 percent.

"I used to hear that same thing, that Blacks were afraid. But since I’ve been doing this, guess what? I've been serving Blacks, whites, Hispanics and they all have some fear," Woolfork said.

Woolfork said he is heartened by the partnerships with county health leaders and has been leading by example, getting vaccinated himself.

About 67 percent of seniors have been vaccinated in Indian River County.
About 67 percent of seniors have been vaccinated in Indian River County.

"Once they see you do it, they say, 'It must be alright’ because they'll say, ‘That’s my cousin, that’s my dad,'" Woolfork said.

He stressed that even though he works for a youth-based organization, it's just as important to take care of the older generations.

"This particular endeavor is making sure now that the caregivers, the mom, the aunt, the dad, are healthy enough to take care of the kids who come to the Gifford Youth Achievement Center," said Woolfork.

Woolfork said they are well on their way to getting 1,000 people and more registered.

Parchment said he wants to be the next to get the shot.

"Maybe that might be my boost to help me get my weight back, so I can get back out into society and work at least until I’m 65," Parchment said.

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