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CDC Recognizes Partnership With U.S. Cooperative Extension System

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, and the center’s deputy director for science have expressed gratitude to the nation’s Cooperative Extension System, including Purdue University Cooperative Extension, for addressing vaccine hesitancy by educating and raising awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID-19 in rural America.

“Rural America continues to be especially hard hit by the pandemic, and the lives of families and communities continue to feel the impacts,” said Dr. Carrie Castille, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). “Because our communities are faced with making important decisions about vaccinations, having a trusted, independent community agent to aid in decision making is essential. Cooperative Extension agents and educators are well placed to have that discussion and provide objective educational information. Talk with your Extension agent, and then decide.”

Through an interagency agreement with the CDC and NIFA, Cooperative Extension units at land-grant universities across the nation received funding and launched the Cooperative Extension Immunization Teaching and Engagement (EXCITE) in June 2021 to address health disparities among rural and other underserved communities.

Samuel F. Posner, acting director of the CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a letter to the U.S. Cooperative Extension System, “Agents and educators are trusted messengers working in every county across the nation and are uniquely situated at local levels to engage with their communities and build partnerships to improve community health.

“As my team listens to our partners in the field, we hear story upon story of the need for one-on-one, honest discussions with trusted messengers to address concerns about COVID-19 vaccines.”

Purdue Extension is currently addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in five Indiana counties with high Latinx populations: Cass, Clinton, Daviess, Elkhart and Wayne counties. The efforts aim to dispel misinformation and increase confidence by sharing science-based information in Spanish. Purdue Extension launched a Pandora advertising campaign on Spanish-language stations in the targeted counties. The ad links to a web page available in Spanish with information and resources about the COVID-19 vaccine and links to additional information provided by the Indiana state government and the CDC.

The Cooperative Extension System is operated through the nation’s land-grant university system in partnership with the federal, state and local governments. As the federal partner, NIFA develops methods to address national priorities, funds and awards grants, and provides program leadership. The agency supports both the universities and local Extension offices to bring science directly to the regional and county level. NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and Extension across the nation to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA supports initiatives that ensure the long-term viability of agriculture and applies an integrated approach to ensure that groundbreaking discoveries in agriculture-related sciences and technologies reach the people who can put them into practice. In FY2020, NIFA’s total investment was $1.95 billion.