TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — It's the race to a vaccine in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and the Big Bend is playing a crucial role in the fight.
Florida A&M University will start focus groups, reaching out to African-American communities in the Big Bend to educate people about efforts to fight the virus. One goal of the team is encouraging people to become a part of those vaccine trials.
FAMU is partnering with the University of Florida on a community outreach initiative. It will promote community engagement to determine the level of awareness and understanding of COVID-19 in the African-American communities in Leon, Wakulla, Gadsden, and Jefferson counties.
Cynthia Harris is the FAMU principal investigator for the outreach project.
"The significance is that if we, through our outreach understand what those barriers are and have an understanding of what the concerns are, then we can better talk about the significance of these vaccines for the community," said Harris.
The Florida Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities will create focus groups aimed at clearing up any false information or reservations about the virus.
"Education is key and we want to know what are the factors that are making people hesitant," said Harris.
A goal for the team is encouraging minorities to get the COVID-19 vaccine once available, or sign up for a trial right now.
In the Big Bend, Johnson & Johnson is currently available to join.
Chrissie Rakowski is a science student and told ABC 27 she signed up for the trial to see how it works.
"It's a great thing to be a part of and I'm happy I did it. It's just keeping the faith that we'll be out of this soon and we'll have vaccines available soon," said Rakowski, "My part is making sure we'll have something safe and effective for the rest of the public."
Rakowski is one of the close to 40,000 people who volunteered to be part of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine trial. Since joining the trial in August, she's been logging her journey weekly.
She said, since taking the COVID 19 vaccine, she's built up antibodies, been around others who were exposed, and yet has no symptoms.
"Being able to be a part of it and make a difference with it is why I wanted to do it," said Rakowski.
After her second dose, Rakowski says she did feel symptoms like fever, fatigue, and a headache, but they were gone in about a day.
The White House vaccine chief says Americans could start to get the vaccine as early as Dec. 11. Pfizer says if the FDA grants emergency approval, within hours, it'll begin distribution. The company will send out 50 million doses across the U.S. before the new year.
FAMU hasn't started recruiting for those focus groups yet.
If you're interested in joining the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine trial, you can apply here.
Bond Community Health Center is also involved in a study tracking blood clotting in COVID-19 patients. Adults 40 and older in the Tallahassee area who are currently positive for the virus are asked to apply. If interested, contact Dr. Temple Robinson at email@example.com.