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INDIANAPOLIS – Marion County is setting a goal of vaccinating 80 percent of its population. To do that, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced a new COVID Community Ambassadors Program.

Ambassadors will receive regular vaccine updates via email, as well as social media graphics they can share with family, friends and neighbors.

“We are kind of in a race here where we need to get many people vaccinated as quickly as possible to prevent the kind of replications that can lead to mutations and new variants,” said Matt Giffin, Interim Director of Indianapolis Office of Public Health and Safety (OPHS).

OPHS is partnering with the Marion County Public Health Department to combat vaccine hesitancy, particularly in minority communities in Indianapolis.

Ambassadors can also help someone sign up for an appointment and drive a neighbor to get a shot. Giffin said it is important to make sure everyone understands the risks and benefits of vaccines.

A recent poll by AP-NORC found about one in three Americans say they definitely or probably won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine. Resistance ran higher among younger populations, people without college degrees, Republicans and Black Americans.

A new CDC study looking at side effects shows there were 7,000 side effects reported out of more than 14 million vaccines administered.

“There is a lot of misinformation floating around about vaccines, particularly prevalent in minority communities,” said Giffin. “It is understandable and justifiable that there is that hesitancy based on past bad experiences with the health care system and government healthcare.”

The city and Marion County Public Health Department will host two webinars next week for the program on Facebook live. One will be in English on March 3 at 6 p.m. and the other will be held in Spanish on March 4 at the same time.

To sign up to be a COVID Community Ambassador, click here.