Protecting Marylanders through the Extension COVID Immunization Training and Education (EXCITE) program

July 8, 2021
By Laura Wormuth

A team of University of Maryland Extension (UME) Family and Consumer Sciences educators are leading a drive to provide outreach and access to targeted populations in Maryland through the Extension COVID Immunization Training and Education (EXCITE) program.

The EXCITE program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA), is a collaborative effort of Land-grant Universities (LGUs) and the Cooperative Extension System (CES) to improve vaccination coverage in rural and other medically underserved communities throughout the nation.

Focusing on community engagement, the team, led by senior agent, licensed dietitian, and nutritionist Lisa McCoy, will examine adult hesitancy and other barriers preventing people from obtaining the COVID vaccination, now available to all people over the age of 12.

“This project will target communities that are not only at an increased risk for severe COVID-19, such as seniors and people with diabetes, but also vulnerable groups that may struggle to find vaccine information, sign up, or physically get to vaccination sites, such as farm workers, immigrants and low-to-moderate income families,” said McCoy.

An assessment of the COVID-19 Pandemic Vulnerability Index (PVI) shows that the targeted rural counties of Maryland had vaccination rates of less than 21%, highlighting the need for outreach and education for these hard-to-reach populations, McCoy said.

The team includes McCoy, Carrie Sorenson, Crystal Terhune, and Jinhee Kim, program leader for the UME Family & Consumer Sciences Program. Their work will focus on creating educational and outreach materials in multiple languages, utilizing resources from trusted and credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and engaging those communities through partnerships, marketing and communications.

A new COVID-19 Vaccination Education page is now available at, providing detailed information about the vaccine, its effectiveness, as well as information on making a vaccination appointment in all of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City.

For more information on this grant or its associated activities, please contact Laura Wormuth, UME communications program manager, at 301-405-6869 or