PSP launches vaccine education campaign

In an effort to boost workplace health and safety, the Permian Strategic Partnership has launched a campaign to encourage COVID vaccinations.

Tracee Bentley, president and CEO of PSP, said the initiative began Nov. 22.

Bentley said the organization will use digital and social media, TV, video and print outlets.

“The leadership of my 16 member companies of the PSP have been watching vaccination rates basically become stagnant. And as you well know, we have some of the lowest vaccination rates of anywhere in the country. … Health and safety at the workplace is always the No. 1 priority for my 16-member companies … so protecting our workforce against COVID falls exactly in line with their health and safety priority. So as we’re watching our numbers, it’s now become a real safety and health concern for PSP member companies,” Bentley said.

She added that some polling and research was conducted before starting the campaign.

“And one of the main reasons people who are thinking about getting vaccinated and have been thinking about it for quite some time are not is because they are getting pressure from their friends and family and social circles to not get vaccinated. So you’re going to see some of our messaging speak to that and say for those who want to get vaccinated, let them do that and give them the freedom to feel like they can do that,” she said.

“We’re hoping that by the business community, i.e. PSP companies, saying this isn’t about government conspiracy theories; this isn’t about people telling us what to do. This truly is about taking care of each other; our friends and family and all of us who live in the Permian. Science shows us that the best way we can take care of each other is to get vaccinated,” Bentley said.

Companies will give people time off to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects.

“Not only will our member companies give you the time you need to go get vaccinated, they will bring the vaccines to you no matter where you’re at on the job site. We’ve done it before and we’ll continue to do it. We’ll make it incredibly easy and convenient to get vaccinated,” Bentley said.

She added that they did this early on and had a pretty good success rate.

“But whenever we hear of people wanting a vaccination, we’re going to make it really easy for that to happen,” Bentley said.

Long before PSP decided to launch the campaign, Bentley said she had multiple conversations with Midland Memorial Hospital and Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, as well as hospitals in Southeast New Mexico about what they’ve been experiencing and whether an educational campaign like the one PSP is conducting would be helpful.

Bentley said the answer was a resounding yes.

“They thought it would be incredibly helpful for the business community to speak out,” she said.

Bentley said 2,200 people in the Basin have died of COVID. She added that the vast majority of those deaths were “very preventable.”

The more people who get vaccinated, the sooner things can get back to the way they were.

“… We’re also going through the D variant. How many more variants are we going to have to go through before people finally say the only way to get through this is to get vaccinated?”

“We’re watching the hospitals kind of level out right now, but when you talk to the heads of each one of those hospitals they’re like yeah for now. But what’s going to be the next variant and how long is that going to be here?” Bentley said.

She noted that people who work in the hospitals are people’s neighbors and community members.

“These are our moms and sisters, brothers and neighbors and friends; all of that. Part of what our research showed that we did before we launched the campaign was that the Permian Basin is an especially caring and giving community … so when we saw that, which doesn’t surprise anybody who lives here, but when you see that we really take care of each other we’re hoping that that’s going to show up again and manifest itself by people getting vaccinations so that we can take care of each other like we have a history of doing,” Bentley said.

Dr. Alejandra Garcia Fernandez, who specializes in critical care, will be a spokesperson for the effort.

Garcia Fernandez got involved through Russell Tippin, president and CEO of Medical Center Hospital.

“He was approached … by the Permian Strategic Partnership to try to find someone that would be willing to participate as a spokesperson for the campaign. I’ve been working here at MCH for over a year and a half now and he knows how passionate I (am) about education. I also work with the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Internal Medicine Department,” Garcia Fernandez said.

She speaks English and Spanish.

“I said yes right away,” Fernandez Garcia said.

She hopes this is just the beginning and that there will be more to come depending on how the initial phases go.

“Right now, it’s concentrating on education mostly,” Garcia Fernandez said.

“I totally believe that everything comes with education. I think a lot of the resistance in terms of vaccination comes from inability to get to the information, so people listen to what others say but don’t really go a lot of times to the source of … that information … I think it’s human nature to kind of question things, but I think the more time goes by since we started rolling vaccinations massively, the more information is out there published in clinical journals show that the risk of the vaccination is extremely low and the benefits of achieving immunity is extremely high,” she said. “I think that a lot of times having someone who is on this side of the doors of the hospital, seeing day in and day out what happens once patients get severely sick, sharing what it looks like at the bedside may convince some people that are halfway there, just not completely ready to take that extra step. … I definitely think creating a way of communicating with the population and addressing their concerns without judgment is the most important part.”

Over the last six months, Garcia Fernandez said, they are seeing more children being admitted; and more children in the pediatric ICU with severe disease.

“So I think the more this virus has mutated, the more aggressive it has become and people that we used to (think) of as low risk are now developing severe forms of the disease. So my hope is if we can control this in the younger population quickly with vaccination, then we won’t get to the point of having the system overwhelmed and hopefully not lose as many lives as we have up until this point,” Garcia Fernandez said.

She said appealing to people to protect their grandmothers, for example, should still be part of the campaign.

“But I also think it’s no longer about only protecting others … it’s about protecting yourself as well. In the last three weeks that I’ve been working in the ICU I’ve lost patients that are my age and I think the message this time is don’t put your kids through losing their parents early on in life. There shouldn’t be a reason why a 14 year old and a 20 year old are at bedside because their 38 year old parent is dying in ICU. We should do better,” she said.

“It’s not only getting COVID and getting the complications, but it’s everything that comes with it. It’s the trauma for younger generations losing parents too early. It’s the trauma of having multiple family members dying at the same time. It’s the trauma of the isolation. It’s a lot more than just protecting your grandparents. I think we’re beyond that point right now. We’re losing people (of) all ages and it’s just across the boards,” she added.

The disease also increases the risk of stroke and blood clots, among other ailments.

Garcia Fernandez urges people to research using trusted information sources.

“I think what I would ask people again, and I’ve said this before; just please go to the source; just look for the people that take the time to read the last publication. Stop listening to what Facebook and YouTube, and just the neighbor has to say and go to the sources of what’s being published. There’s a lot of data out there that is available to everyone and I don’t know of one physician that is not going to be willing to sit down and share their thoughts with you, so ask the questions and look for the information on the right source,” she added.