Philly Counts

Members of the Philly Counts team canvas the Haddington neighborhood of West Philadelphia. —PHOTO COURTESY OF PHILLY COUNTS

The Philly Counts office has been instrumental in helping Philadelphia reach a 77% adult COVID-19 vaccination rate.

During 2021, Philly Counts team knocked on more than 68,000 doors, made 198,295 phone calls and has had more 7,000 conversations with residents about getting the vaccine.

Hassan Freeman, director of Neighborhood Engagement for Philly Counts said their strategy is to connect directly with the community.

“We don’t go to the community and tell them what their needs are,” Freeman said. “We ask them what their needs are. We believe that every community has different needs, so a one-sized strategy is a failed strategy.”

He said they found a host of barriers in communities that were impacting people’s ability to get vaccinated such as vaccine hesitancy, concerns about gun violence and lack of access to pharmacies.

“Engaging in the community we realized that social determinants that create barriers to getting vaccinated are plentiful so our drive was to actually remove those barriers,” Freeman said.

He said Philly Counts’ outreach efforts is focused on underserved communities that have had low vaccination rates. Team members have headed out to sections such as North Philadelphia, Ogontz, Kensington, Southwest and West Philadelphia.

“We look at the statistics,” Freeman said. “We look at the most up to date Census tracts and we hit those communities first.”

Freeman said building trust amongst community members is an important part of the engagement efforts.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why we made it a priority to bring in community-based organizations and other trusted messengers like the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, the Philanthropy Network, in addition to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health because we need a collaborative effort to actually break that mistrust in our community,” he said.

“It’s very important that I stress that this is a team effort in collaboration with all of these other resources. This is why Philadelphia is so successful.”

Philadelphia is now the most vaccinated city of the top 10 cities in America. 71.4 % of adult Philadelphians ages 12 and up have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 23% of children ages 5-11 have at least one dose.

Philly Count’s engagement model is centered on grass root organizing and coalition building with trusted organizations in Philadelphia. A key component of the model is the department’s Vaccine Information Champion Training. It is a 90-minute training that equips the public with the knowledge to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with family and friends. This year Philly Counts has trained upwards of 900 Vaccine Information Champions.

“We want to be remembered for more than our vaccination outreach and response,” Ny’Asia Brackett, organizer manager, Philly Counts said in a news release.

“We want to be remembered as the team that addressed all of the concerns of the community, bringing every resource at our disposal to every neighborhood in the city.”

“Whether it’s vaccines, food, or mental health services, our success has been built by not just saying that we are going to bring these resources, but actually following through and doing it,” she said.

In October, Philly Counts launched a paid canvassing program activating 50 canvassers to speak with residents in 32 of the lowest vaccinated Philadelphia neighborhoods about the vaccine. The canvassers will make three passes through each neighborhood. Since the start of the paid canvassing program, 48,698 doors have been knocked on, 2,095 phone calls were made for a total of 7,913 conversations.

“It feels so rewarding talking to people in the community and feeling the unity in hope of seeing ourselves fight together to combat this pandemic,” Teresa Saunders, neighborhood organizer, Philly Counts said in a news release.

“I have been impressed with those who have expressed a change of heart and decided after being hesitant, to now get vaccinated. I believe we are going to get through this pandemic continuing on this path.”

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