WVSU Extension Service, WVU Extension Service PartnershipĀ Receives $250,000 to Enhance Vaccine Education

Contact: Jack Bailey
(304) 766-4109
June 4, 2021
West Virginia State University Extension Service, WVU Extension Service Partnership Receives $250,000 to Enhance Vaccine Education
INSTITUTE, W.Va. – West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service and West Virginia University (WVU) Extension Service have received nearly $250,000 to enhance vaccine education and immunization outreach to West Virginians.

The award was presented by the Extension Foundation, in cooperation with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, through an Interagency Agreement with the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address health disparities among rural and other underserved communities across the U.S. The Extension Collaborative on Immunization Teaching & Engagement (EXCITE) initiative is a result of the recent announcement from the CDC to provide $9.95 million funding to the USDA-NIFA to support an innovative approach to community education and partnerships to advance adult immunization.

The two Extension Services will partner to develop a robust vaccine and immunization community education and outreach program for the state’s residents, including a strong focus on multigenerational families and other vulnerable populations. Faculty and staff have partnered to create the “Don’t Wait, Vaccinate!” initiative to provide information on immunizations, including education and awareness around the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Given West Virginia’s high prevalence of grandparents providing full-time care to their grandchildren, we are focusing our educational efforts on a multigenerational audience of adolescents through senior citizens with our established network of Healthy Grandfamilies program participants,” said WVSU Extension Service Director Ami Smith, who noted that West Virginia ranks second nationally in grandparent-led households. WVSU launched Healthy Grandfamilies in 2016 to provide education, resources and support to grandparents raising their grandchildren. The program currently has cohorts operating in all 55 counties. “By partnering with WVU Extension Service, our joint efforts will have an even greater impact on the people of West Virginia.”

The team reviewed data from all 55 counties, including areas with greater health disparities and minority populations, and will use the grant funding to focus their education and outreach efforts on four counties: Clay, Kanawha, McDowell and Mercer. West Virginia University will be leading program implementation in McDowell and Mercer counties, while West Virginia State University will lead programming in Clay and Kanawha counties. The initiative will connect local community organizations, local health departments, health care leaders and others in
these communities to work collaboratively on this project.

"As trusted experts in our communities, Extension plays a critical role in not only the COVID-19 vaccinations, but immunizations in general. We also know there is a lot of misinformation out there that has created fear of vaccines," Stephanie Lusk, WVU Extension Service agent, said. "Our goal is to ensure residents have factual, science-based information. The partnership with West Virginia State University will allow us to use our resources, including our faculty and other experts, to develop programs, research and other activities to help residents make these important decisions for themselves and their families."

The NIFA EXCITE program supports land-grant universities and the Cooperative Extension system in delivering immunization education to the communities they serve to improve vaccine confidence. Extension also will work with local partners, including health care providers, to make COVID-19 and other adult vaccines more accessible for rural, medically under-served and other harder-to-reach communities.

“As we continue to address public health issues facing our state, nation and world, it is critical that we work collaboratively to bring education and outreach to West Virginia communities,” WVU Extension Service Dean Jorge Atiles said. “We are fortunate to have two universities in West Virginia that provide extraordinary Extension programming, and they are doing phenomenal work. This award will not only further our efforts on vaccination education, but it also will solidify our new partnership with West Virginia State University Extension Service.”

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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multiā€generational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research. WVSU  is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution and does not discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex/gender, national origin, ancestry, age, blindness, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran or military status or other category that is protected under federal, State, or local anti-discrimination laws as protected characteristics.
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