Students plan COVID-19 vaccine town hall meeting as part of family event


Some Mercer University students have teamed up with OneMacon to provide a health awareness component for its upcoming family event.

The community is invited to OneMacon’s Family Fun and Service Day from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 11 at Rosa Jackson Community Center, located at 1211 Maynard St. in Macon. In addition to a game truck, food, music, vendors and activities, the event will include a COVID-19 vaccine town hall meeting and vaccine clinic. The United Way of Central Georgia, Macon-Bibb County Sheriff’s Office and Macon-Bibb County Fire Department are partners for the event.

OneMacon is a comprehensive community and economic development plan built and implemented by leaders throughout the county, including clergy, and its current geographic focus areas are the Pleasant Hill, Tindall Heights and Fort Hill neighborhoods. Members of the OneMacon Clergy Collaborative center their service in those communities around food, fitness, family and finances, and the upcoming Family Fun and Service Day is part of their ministry, said Dominique Johnson, chair of the collaborative, lead pastor of Kingdom Life in Macon and CEO of The Urban CEO Inc. 

The event will take place in the Fort Hill neighborhood of East Macon, and the town hall meeting from 11:30 a.m.-noon is one of three empowerment sessions planned. There will also be an exercise class from 10:30-11 a.m., and at 1 p.m., attendees can receive information and guidance on applying for rental assistance.

“Our thing is to come in and give the community some type of information and resources that can help the citizens be equipped and empowered for the betterment of their lives,” Johnson said. 

The town hall meeting is organized by sophomore Komal Gandhi and senior Erika Thomas, who are Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors for Mercer. Twenty student ambassadors were selected in May, and they have been doing public outreach projects to decrease vaccine hesitancy and increase vaccination rates.

“We want to give as much truth around COVID and the vaccine as possible,” Johnson said. “We want people to be well informed and make a good decision. We want to be able to answer questions intelligently.”

The town hall meeting will give attendees an opportunity to hear medical professionals speak about the COVID-19 vaccine, said Gandhi, a biochemistry and molecular biology major. The panelists will be Dr. Cheryl Gaddis, associate professor of practice and chair of the Department of Public Health in Mercer’s College of Health Professions; Dr. Bonzo Reddick, professor and chair of community medicine and associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion for the School of Medicine’s Savannah campus; and Dr. Jimmie Smith, administrator of the Macon-Bibb County Health Department.

Following 10 minutes of prepared questions, audience members will have a chance to ask the panelists their own questions. Informational brochures will also be on hand. 

“They have three experts that they can directly go to and ask these pressing questions,” Gandhi said. “In the media, you see more headline news, and it can be hard to discern the information you need to know. Here, you can go straight to the source.”

With many hospitals at full capacity, vaccination is as important now as ever. Throughout the Family Fun and Service Day, the Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines will be available to attendees at no cost.

Online preregistration is not required but will help organizers estimate how many vaccines are needed. No health insurance or appointment is required. Those who receive their first vaccine dose will be able to get their second shot Oct. 5. 

“The main goal is to get more people in the area vaccinated,” said Thomas, a neuroscience major. “Since this is a big event, I’m hoping it will be a good reminder for everybody in the community that this (type of activity) is more of what we could be going toward if everyone got vaccinated. We can get back toward normalcy.”

Click here to make a donation in support of public outreach initiatives by the Faith in the Vaccine Ambassadors program.


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Andrea Honaker
Andrea Honaker is a digital content specialist at Mercer. She writes feature stories for The Den and creates and maintains content for primary University web pages. She also plans and executes campaigns for the primary official Mercer University social media accounts.