COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) – The University of South Carolina’s College of Pharmacy held a COVID-19 vaccine education event at the Juneteenth Freedom Fest. Instructors and students from the college offered science-based information to passersby who had not been vaccinated yet.
DHEC data suggests that minorities make up approximately 43% of South Carolinians who have received at least one COVID-19 shot. Data from DHEC also shows that Black South Carolinians make up just 19.5% of people with at least one dose.
“We feel like we can do better,” said clinical associate instructor and infectious diseases pharmacy specialist Dr. Julie Ann Justo. “We want to protect individuals and their loved ones from contracting COVID-19.”
The college hosts similar community education events regarding various public health issues such as penicillin allergies and flu shots at events like Soda City Market. The program chose to host the COVID-19 vaccination information booth at the Juneteenth event to target specific groups that may be hesitant to get their shot.
“Juneteenth is the place to be this weekend; there’s a lot of joy here, a lot of celebration and remembrance and respect for history,” said Justo. “We’re really excited to be here with the community and listen to their concerns as they relate to COVID-19 vaccination, and hopefully give a little bit of helpful information as well.”
Dr. Justo says the pharmacy students that talked to community members are vaccine experts. She says they have been studying all vaccines for at least four years and they also have extensive knowledge about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Jordan Cooler, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy and psychiatric pharmacist, says she hopes the event helped the community understand both the vaccine and the role of pharmacists better. She says pharmacists are among the most accessible medical professionals as they typically don’t require appointments for consultations.
“This is an opportunity for our students to get out into the community and hone those skills, as far as educating individuals and interacting,” said Cooler. “We’re coming and we’re meeting them where they’re at.”
Cooler says the event served to boost vaccine confidence in the community and if people felt more confident getting their shot after speaking to the students, they were able to go get their shot at a vaccine tent that was also at the festival.
The college plans to continue educating the public in the coming weeks about the COVID-19 vaccine to help increase vaccination rates across the state.
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