PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Jackson County Rotary clubs kicked off a campaign Thursday to encourage more Mississippians to get vaccinated. Yard signs reading “Sleeves Up! Mississippi Vaccinate” are being distributed to members across the county.
Outside the Jackson County Fairgrounds today, they handed out signs and got a somewhat reluctant Sheriff Mike Ezell to get his shot. Rotary International has worked for 35 years to eliminate polio through vaccinations, now they are joining the battle against the novel coronavirus.
“Whatever fears you may have about the vaccine, I’m more afraid of the virus,” said Dr. Eric Washington of Bienville Orthopaedics, who delivered Ezell’s vaccine.
Washington also added “We’ve spent the whole year playing defense with this virus, which is wearing a mask and distancing and all those things. Now, we have something we can be offensive with. With this vaccine, so the whole thrust of this is lets take the offense now. Let’s encourage people to get the vaccine.”
Washington has worked for the last several weeks trying to encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, that also includes, working with local churches to organize pop-up vaccine clinics to increase access to the vaccine.
“Accessibility, yes and acceptance, because of the reluctance of people of all styles about getting the vaccine,” said Washington.
Several groups have been apprehensive about receiving the shot, but a recent poll showed that attitudes are starting to change and more Mississippians are willing to get vaccinated.
“I think it’s a duty for us as citizens,” said Jennifer Garlich, Rotary Assistant District Governor. “We have to get vaccinated. It doesn’t matter which party line or what you believe, it’s just the right thing to do for our community. "
Washington echoed her thoughts.
“Let’s all try to be on the same team,” said Washington. “We’ve been kind of back and forth on what’s right, what’s wrong, what we need, what we don’t need. But the sooner we can all be on the same team, the quicker we can get through this and get on the other side of it.”
The idea behind the campaign is to reach out to those who are on the fence about the shot’s safety.
“Lets encourage people to get the vaccine,” Washington said. “And I know that there are going to be some that for whatever reason have decided that they don’t want it, but there’s some that are just a little hesitant, and we just want to be kind of reassuring, and just nudge them a little to say let’s get this done so everyone’s safer. Not only you personally, but everyone’s safer.”
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell said he was hesitant to get vaccinated, but today he rolled his sleeve up to get his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and he asked others to do the same.
“I was kind of taking a wait-and-see attitude about it and I started getting various forms of encouragement from the medical community and my family especially,” Ezell said. “And so when Jennifer Garlich called me and said we need you to step up, and Steve Renfroe and Dr. Washington is there, I couldn’t tell them no.
“I think it’s a good thing,” said Ezell. “It’s something we need to do as a community. We need to get our folks out there. Let’s get well so we can get back to life.”
Ezell said getting the vaccine as the Rev. Peggy Gibson, Pastor St. Paul UMC Moss Point stood by his side, felt like a baptism.
Gibson said he wasn’t far off.
“We have to lead the way and be the example and be the model for others to say this is a good thing,” said Gibson.
“It’s about loving your neighbor,” said Gibson. “I wear my mask because I love you, to protect you, and so that is why we’re stepping up. It’s really biblical as to why you wear your mask. If you love your neighbor.”
She said the same applies to getting vaccinated.