While nearly half of all Iowans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, demand for the vaccine has slowed, particularly in less densely populated regions of the state. That’s a trend researchers in the University of Iowa College of Public Health are aiming to reverse through a new federal grant to promote vaccine uptake in small and mid-sized communities across Iowa.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant will support the University of Iowa Prevention Research Center for Rural Health (PRC-RH), Iowa Public Health Association, and the statewide Iowa Immunizes Coalition as they team up with Iowa’s 17 micropolitan communities — localities with populations between 10,000 and 49,999 people — as well as public health leaders, community based organizations, health providers, and other community leaders to promote COVID-19 vaccine uptake among residents in these communities.
The year-long project will involve three phases: first, collecting data to understand who is not getting vaccinated and why; second, pilot testing interventions and strategies that have been shown to be effective; and third, disseminating successful interventions and strategies across the state.
“The PRC-RH and its partners will take best practices grounded in science, and through community input, will adapt these strategies to the needs and context of Iowa communities,” says project lead Natoshia Askelson, assistant professor of community and behavioral health and research fellow at the UI Public Policy Center. “We hope that through these partnerships, more Iowans will be able to find the resources necessary to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine and to increase community member confidence in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.”