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USDA-NIFA, CDC and Cooperative Extension Team Up for Vaccine Education in Rural America

KANSAS CITY, Mo., May 12, 2021 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently provided $9.95 million in funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to support an innovative approach to community education and partnerships to advance adult immunization. This is the two agencies’ first concentrated vaccine education effort in rural America.
Sunflowers in rural America, courtesy of Getty Images.

NIFA will use this funding, provided in an interagency agreement, to support Land-grant Universities and the Cooperative Extension System in delivering immunization education to the communities they serve to improve vaccine confidence. Extension will also work with local partners, including healthcare providers, to make COVID-19 and other adult vaccines more accessible for rural, medically under-served and other harder-to-reach communities.

“Cooperative Extension agents are recognized and trusted messengers in their communities and can help deliver fact-based information on the COVID-19 vaccine and other adult vaccines,” said Dr. Jay Butler, CDC’s Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases. “We know vaccination rates overall are lagging in rural communities, and Extension agents can play an important role in building COVID-19 vaccine confidence and increasing vaccine access within the communities they serve.”
 
“Cooperative Extension has a century of experience as change agents and educators in communities across America,” said NIFA director Dr. Carrie Castille. “NIFA is proud to be the federal partner with such a trusted educational resource, but especially in this effort to deliver science-based vaccine education. This new partnership with CDC is a natural fit for the Extension System to do what they do best – provide balanced, reliable information so people can make informed decisions.”

Early examples of Extension’s contributions to helping communities fight COVID-19 and providing vaccine education include:
 
  • University of Vermont Extension staff made repeated visits to farms to build vaccine acceptance by first talking about the pandemic in general terms, then discussing the importance of testing, and finally by discussing the vaccine itself.  Extension has worked with local health departments to conduct onsite COVID-19 vaccination clinics for at least three farms to date.
  • The University of Florida and the University of Kentucky are hosting vaccine clinics at several of their local Extension offices. West Virginia University hosted a regional vaccination site at the Jackson’s Mill 4-H Camp in conjunction with a local health department.
  • Extension staff working in tribal communities are focusing on helping residents overcome fear and dispelling myths, using culturally appropriate information that integrates native wisdom and western science. In many tribal communities, it begins with getting elders to receive the vaccines and encouraging others to do the same.  A “Facts not Fear” website, developed by Extension staff contains a curated collection of culturally-appropriate resources from CDC, NIH, Johns Hopkins, and USDA and is now available.
“Vaccinations are a critical step in fully re-opening our nation. This partnership between USDA and CDC is an important part of our National Strategy to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and getting Americans fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Sara Bleich, USDA senior advisor for COVID. “The President has directed us to make it easier for those living in rural communities to access vaccines by sending vaccines to rural health clinics, increasing vaccine education and outreach efforts in rural communities with resources from the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and increasing funding for rural health clinics and hospitals to respond to the pandemic with testing and mitigation measures.”

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and Extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. In FY2020, NIFA’s total investment was $1.95 billion.

Visit our website: www.nifa.usda.gov; Twitter: @USDA_NIFA; LinkedIn: USDA-NIFA. To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science (searchable by state or keyword), visit www.nifa.usda.gov/impacts.
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