Countdown to Herd Immunity: The Fight to Get People the COVID-19 Vax – Healthline

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  • For the first time, demand for COVID-19 vaccines is no longer outstripping supply in many states.
  • As the vaccination rate dips, health officials have started a variety of programs to reach out to people who may have difficulty getting vaccinated.
  • Mobile clinics, longer hours at clinics, and outreach are all being used to get more people vaccinated.

In the country’s race to vaccinate people and build herd immunity against COVID-19, local governments and public health leaders have had to come up with innovative ways to provide equitable and easy access to the vaccines.

In some areas, this has meant launching vaccination sites specifically geared toward seniors, a group that’s seen the highest rates of hospitalization and death during the pandemic.

Mobile clinics have also popped up in underserved areas, eliminating the need for online pre-registration or travel in communities that have limited access to technology and transportation.

Local health officials have taken cultural approaches, opening 24/7 clinics and meeting vaccine-hesitant people at their homes.

Here are some of the most effective ways local health officials are improving access to the vaccines:

In San Marcos, California, it quickly became obvious that vaccine eligibility didn’t mean vaccine access, says Tim Lash, president of the nonprofit Gary and Mary West PACE[1].

“As older adults struggled to navigate online appointment systems or lacked caregiver support, we saw an opportunity to fill these gaps for seniors,” Lash said.

The Gary and Mary West Foundation teamed up with the county of San Diego — along with various municipal, academic, healthcare, and philanthropic organizations — to launch a vaccination site specifically geared toward seniors.

The site helped seniors book appointments by providing them with a phone-based scheduling option. The public-private partnership also educated seniors about the vaccine, provided transportation to and from the site, and accommodated all levels of function and mobility.

The CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center[2] launched walk-up mobile clinics in Los Angeles in partnership with the Southern California Eye Institute (SCEI)[3] and city councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas. These mobile clinics aim to reach underserved communities that have limited access to healthcare, transportation, and technology needed to book an appointment.

Dr. Rohit Varma[4], chief medical officer of CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, said that after hosting a drive-through vaccination clinic, the medical center looked for new “ways to reach and deliver vaccines to the underserved in the Los Angeles community, to those who may not have ready access to computers or transportation.”

The site has walk-up onsite registration, eliminating the need for people to book an appointment online via a phone or computer. SCEI offered to convert their mobile eye clinic bus into a vaccination center on wheels, which brought the mobile clinic to life.

Project HOPE, a global health and humanitarian relief organization, partnered with Indian Health Services (IHS) to distribute vaccines to Navajo Nation.

Vaccine sites were set up at hospitals and clinics along with community gathering spots like chapter houses.

Harley Jones, senior manager of domestic emergency response with Project HOPE[5], said IHS took a cultural approach when messaging the benefits of vaccination, “positioning the fight against the pandemic and getting the vaccine as something that everyone should do to support their friends and neighbors.”

The use of personal protective equipment, social distancing, and vaccinations were positioned in a way that gave everyone within the tribe a way to support the group, especially the elders, who faced higher risk for complications from COVID-19.

In Navajo culture, elders are revered as the “history, health, and strength” of the tribe, said Jones. The tribe mobilized to protect the group as a whole.

“Despite being disproportionately impacted, including winter months marked by severe infection rates and community losses, Navajo Nation community has had recent landmark successes” resulting from a strong increase in vaccinations, Jones said.

It’s difficult for many people to secure vaccine appointments during traditional working hours. Across the country, vaccine clinics with overnight hours[6] have been set up to serve people who work and live during nontraditional hours.

In Philadelphia, a pop-up 24/7 marathon clinic hosted by the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium[7] was a huge success, vaccinating about 4,000 people in its first 24 hours. The site aimed to improve vaccine equity and reach communities disproportionally impacted by COVID-19.

Near Detroit, ACCESS, a nonprofit bringing social, health, and educational services to Arab American individuals, set up an overnight vaccine clinic[8] for Muslims fasting during Ramadan. The clinic operated between 8:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. during Ramadan, when people fast from sunrise to sunset, and appointments were fully booked.

To further promote ease of access, some health leaders are bringing the vaccine directly to people in their homes.

There are services that bring the vaccine to homebound seniors[9] who are unable to reach a vaccination clinic. There are also programs[10] in which volunteers are going out into underserved communities and areas with low vaccination rates and talking with residents about the vaccines.

Health officials in Detroit[11] announced that crews will be visiting people’s homes, educating them about the benefits of the shots and helping them sign up for appointments.

In Louisiana[12], religious organizations and civic groups are going door to door as well, simplifying the process of getting vaccinated.

Bringing vaccines to people’s homes can help remove the barriers and gives people easy opportunities to get vaccinated.

In the country’s race to vaccinate people and build herd immunity, local governments and public health leaders have had to come up with innovative ways to provide equitable and easy access to the vaccines.

In some areas, this has meant launching vaccination sites specifically geared toward seniors, a group that’s seen the highest rates of hospitalization and death during the pandemic.

Mobile clinics have also popped up in underserved areas, eliminating the need for online pre-registration or travel in communities that have limited access to technology and transportation.

Local health officials have taken cultural approaches, they’ve opened 24/7 clinics, and have recently started meeting vaccine-hesitant people at their homes.

References

  1. ^ Gary and Mary West PACE (westpace.org)
  2. ^ CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (www.hollywoodpresbyterian.com)
  3. ^ Southern California Eye Institute (SCEI) (sceyes.org)
  4. ^ Dr. Rohit Varma (www.hollywoodpresbyterian.com)
  5. ^ Project HOPE (www.projecthope.org)
  6. ^ vaccine clinics with overnight hours (www.kcrg.com)
  7. ^ Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium (whyy.org)
  8. ^ overnight vaccine clinic (www.clickondetroit.com)
  9. ^ homebound seniors (www.goerie.com)
  10. ^ programs (www.wtkr.com)
  11. ^ Detroit (www.usnews.com)
  12. ^ Louisiana (www.seattletimes.com)

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