Partnering to Improve COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach

The COVID-19 pandemic pulled the curtain back on health disparities. Something once discussed chiefly among policy experts and health communicators was suddenly splashed across news headlines and debated around the dinner table. COVID-19 brought to the forefront glaring inequities between and among various groups of people. Early on, we learned that race and ethnicity were significant risk COVID-19 risk factors, spotlighting disparities in both healthcare treatment and social determinants of health. Those same disparities were reflected when it came to access to vaccines, heightening the need for effective COVID-19 vaccine outreach.

Addressing vaccine outreach and access challenges

In many traditionally underserved communities, COVID-19 vaccine rates have remained low. A lack of transportation, inaccurate or nonexistent information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, and the inability to take time off of work to receive the vaccine are all reasons that people may not have received the vaccine.

These challenges may become even more pronounced now that the public health emergency is set to expire in May. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “adults who are uninsured, who will have limited access to free vaccines, and no coverage for the cost of treatments and tests” will continue to face barriers to access.

Collaborating to address vaccine hesitancy

The COVID-19 pandemic required hospitals, health systems, and other healthcare entities to collaborate in many ways, including on addressing vaccine hesitancy among populations of color. To meet this challenge, CommonSpirit Health — a valued Get Well partner — worked with the Deloitte Health Equity Institute (DHEI) and Get Well to develop an outreach program aimed at increasing access to COVID-19 vaccines. An overview of the partnership was recently published in a special supplement in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

The report shares information and results of the program to navigate vaccine-hesitant patients populations in two geographically distinct locations: Central Coast, CA, and Little Rock, AK, and explores the use of community-based participatory research (CPRB).

The program focused on “health equity-centered actions,” driven by CommonSpirit Health and aligned with DHEI’s mission to remove barriers that prevent historically underserved populations from receiving COVID-19 vaccines. 

Leveraging GetWell Navigate, participants received community-based outreach and engagement that informed them they were eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and where they could access a vaccine. Participants were paired with Get Well Navigators to answer questions and provide resources. 

Bottom line

Although the program remains underway, more than 20,000 patients have received outreach and engagement has been equitable across all participants, demonstrating that using community-based outreach and engagement approaches within a health system and realizing equitable engagement is feasible.

Read the full report for more information. 

Source: de Hernandez, B.U., Díaz, M., Foster, D., Grey, M., Jackson, A., Thong, J., … Burton, C. (2022). A Health System’s Approach to Using CBPR Principles with Multi-sector Collaboration to Design and Implement a COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach Program. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved 33(5), 234-242. doi:10.1353/hpu.2022.0172.