Community Health Days offering screenings and coronavirus vaccines in 32 Appalachian Ky. counties through November

The first Community Health Day was held in Hindman Friday, Aug. 6. (Photos by Melissa Slone, UK)

By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health News
HINDMAN, Ky. — The first of 96 University of Kentucky events to offer Covid-19 vaccines and other health screenings in 32 Kentucky counties resulted in seven more Kentuckians getting a vaccine.
The three-hour Community Health Days event, which felt like a mini-health fair, was held at the June Buchanan Clinic in Hindman Friday, Aug. 6. The next one listed on the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health website is Aug. 20 at Topmost Baptist Church, also in Knott County. The events will continue through November and will be added to an interactive website at as they are scheduled.
Robin Hensley got a shot at the first Community Health
Day from the Kentucky River District Health Department.

Robin Hensley of Clay County, who was camping in the area, was one of the seven who got vaccinated. Hensley, a registered nurse, said she was initially against taking the vaccine because “it came out too soon,” but after learning more about it, decided to get a shot.

“I think it’s important to to be respectful of others’ opinions if they choose not to get it, but I also have studied it enough to know that now I’m comfortable with the decision to go ahead and take it,” she said.

The coronavirus vaccines were able to be developed, tested and given emergency-use authorization in less than a year because of previous research on related coronaviruses and new technology, and federal funding by Congress and the Trump administration.

Community Health Days are funded by a $3.3 million federal grant and sponsored by the UK rural-health center, Kentucky HomeplaceUSA Drone Port and a network of community partners, according to a UK news release.
Screenshot, adapted, of interactive map; it’s available here.

At the request of the Health Resources and Services Administration, which made the grant, the program will also include clinics in West Virginia’s Mingo and Wayne counties.

The clinics are being offered as the much more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus surges across the state, with no real end in sight. They offer more than vaccinations.
Melissa Slone, research, interdisciplinary director at the UK center, said blood-pressure checks and screenings for diabetes and stroke risk at the events remind people to start thinking about and managing their chronic health conditions again after allowing them to worsen while vaccines were yet to come.
“We want people to get vaccinated,” Slone said, “but if we can also help them with managing some of the other chronic diseases, then that’s a win as well.”
Kentucky Homeplace, through its community health workers, can help people with a range of resources, whether medical, social, or environmental, like heating and air-conditioning assistance or housing needs.
Twenty-two people were evaluated at the Hindman event, but only seven got the vaccine.
Fran Feltner, director of the rural-health center, which is based in Hazard, said it’s important to offer a range of screenings along with the coronavirus vaccines because it allows them to provide factual information about the vaccines and to answer any questions the participants may have about them, whether they choose to get vaccinated or not.
Fran Feltner’s magnets

For example, she said many people continue to think there is a microchip or a magnet in the vaccine, which is not true. To dispel that myth, she had a pack of magnets available to prove that wasn’t true.

“Our intent is to meet people where they are to work through barriers, alleviate fears, dispel myths, educate and assess any needs people may have that could be holding them back from being vaccinated,” Feltner said in the news release.
Feltner said in the interview that the events are “about community members taking care of community members. The ultimate goal is to make sure that everybody has access to vaccine, whether it be the kids or the adults that need access to the vaccine. And sometimes, you bring it to them instead of them coming to you. . . . It’s up to us as community members to make sure that people have the right information so that they can make the right decisions.”
Feltner said the Homeplace health workers, who know the people in their communities, have been instrumental in planning the events. She said some sites have had trouble finding local providers to administer vaccinations, and in those cases Walgreens has agreed to partner with them to give the vaccines.
Feltner wrapped up the interview by encouraging people who are hesitant to get a vaccine to seek out credible information about the vaccines and to then weigh their risk before deciding to get one or not. She said, “The more people we can get vaccinated, the more we can get back to a new normal.”
Click here for answers to frequently asked questions about the coronavirus and the vaccines.
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