Well before the rollout of the first approved COVID-19 vaccine, questions loomed over how those tasked with its administration planned to ensure access for member of communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
Yet, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as of March 25, only 8% of Blacks, 9% of Latinos, 5% of Asians, less than 2% of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, and just .6% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have received at least one dose compared to 66% of white individuals.
Hospitals have taken a leading role in trying to address this disparity.
And now some providers are seeing another opportunity.
"Our main goals were really around trying to make sure that we're strengthening the community, creating some resiliency to maintaining adherence around prevention guidance, and doubling down on this effect of trying to build trust in our public health and healthcare delivery systems," said Stephanie Ledesma, interim senior vice president of community health programs for Oakland-based health system, Kaiser Permanente.
Earlier this month, Kaiser announced the launch of a new nationwide vaccine information campaign to help boost confidence within Black, Latino and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities about the safety and efficacy of vaccination. And last week, Kaiser published a COVID-19 vaccine equity toolkit to offer strategies to stakeholders on ways to administer the COVID-19 vaccine more equitably within vulnerable communities.
But Stephanie Ledesma, interim senior vice president of community health programs for Kaiser, said such efforts were part of the health system's larger drive toward addressing issues around racial health equity. Kaiser recently committed $5.4 million in grants to community groups to support their efforts to combat xenophobia and racism against Asians.
The move builds on a $8 million commitment announced in January to go towards addressing structural racism.
"Through these educational campaigns and the connections with community-based organizations we're able to strengthen individuals' confidence in the system with the end goal of driving toward health and wellness within our communities," Ledesma said.
Dan Regan, spokesman for safety-net health system Sinai Chicago, said the provider partnered with city officials to distribute vaccines to 15 communities most impacted by the pandemic. The project launched in February is called Protect Chicago Plus. Ten of the neighborhoods identified by the program are within Sinai's primary and secondary service areas.
Regan said the health system will expand its COVID-19 outreach effort into more extensive community partnerships to address food insecurity and housing instability brought on by the pandemic. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of U.S. Census Bureau survey data found more than 60% of adults reported having difficulty paying their households expenses in the past seven days.
Sinai hopes these stronger community ties will abate the longstanding racial disparities in infant mortality and birth outcomes, where Black babies in Chicago die at nearly three times the rate of white babies.
"We're leveraging all of our marketing resources including advertising, social media, video content, email other digital and mobile strategies to position Sinai Chicago as a valuable resource and trusted provider for our communities," Regan said.
Part of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center's COVID-19 outreach campaign has included approaching patients who come to the emergency department about receiving the vaccine, educating them in its use and development, and scheduling them to get vaccinated.
But Beth NeCamp, executive director of community and civic engagement at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Health Science Colleges, said it also helped design solutions to address health disparities both related and unrelated to the pandemic.
Like Sinai Chicago Ohio State plans to leverage its community partnerships to help addresss social determinants of health.
"Being a good partner is as important as being a community leader," NeCamp said. "We want to be good at both."