MORGANTOWN — “I never want to push my agenda or my way of thinking on people, but I will say … If you haven’t had your shot, you should consider it.”
Before vaccines were available, Clarksburg Mayor Jimmy Marino contracted COVID and spent weeks in the hospital.
Marino said the virus, in combination with his diabetes, was devastating.
“It was touch and go there for a while,” Marino said. “They kept working on me, and thank God they did.”
Marino’s message in support of COVID vaccination was produced by the Monongalia County Health Department thanks to a $1 million dollar Health Resources and Services Administration grant.
HRSA Project Manager James Fugett said MCHD is the regional pass-through for vaccination efforts locally, as well as in Marion, Preston, Taylor, Harrison and Barbour counties.
“With the videos, we’ve tried to find a kind of community champion, if you will, from each of our sub-recipient counties — someone that is pro-vaccination and is well liked in the community,” Fugett said.
“That’s really the reason for those videos. We reach out to those individuals and have them share their story about getting the COVID vaccine and then distributing that, whether that be on social media or what have you. Residents within those communities can resonate with someone that they are familiar with and that they trust when they’re making the decision of whether they want to get vaccinated or not.”
So far, the MCHD has distributed a little over half of the grant money. A portion of that was used to purchase vehicles, three for Monongalia County and one for Marion, Taylor, Preston and Harrison counties, used primarily to aid in vaccination outreach efforts.
Fugett said outreach to underserved communities is of particular importance. Locally, MCHD has led vaccination clinics at Hazel’s House of Hope and Christian Help.
“Where this grant really soars is it’s the combination of public health education and access,” he said. “We’re not only providing you a place to get your vaccine, but if you have questions or are otherwise hesitant, we’re able to provide answers to the people and really let them make an informed decision.”
MCHD Public Information Officer Mary Wade Burnside said online marketing, like the Marino video, is part of a marketing push funded by the grant.
Fugett explained that is focused on portraying a community champion and the struggles they encountered in dealing with the virus.
Both Marino and Debbie Wilfong, of Barbour County, were suggested by their local health department professionals.
“We are currently filming several videos featuring new mothers who got the COVID vaccine during pregnancy, or, in some cases, as soon as they could after giving birth, for those who had babies prior to vaccine availability,” Burnshide explained.
The videos produced by the MCHD are available at monchd.org as well as the department’s YouTube channel.