“The problem right now is that it’s talked about as much as it is an option,” says Bronson, who notes that white Republican-voting men are particularly reluctant to get vaccinated compared to the rest of the US population. “Focusing on things that are choices highlights really serious access issues in the United States.”
One success story occurred in Philadelphia, thanks to effective collaboration between two health systems and black community leaders. Realizing that the online sign-up process has been challenging for seniors or those without an internet connection, Penn Medicine and Mercy Catholic Medical Center created A text-based recording system plus a 24/7 interactive audio recording option can be used from a landline, with physicians answering patients’ questions prior to appointments. Working with community leaders, the program set up its first clinic in the church and vaccinated 550 people.
“We worked closely with community leaders, and each clinic has since evolved in terms of design,” says Lauren Han, director of innovation at Penn Medicine’s Center for Digital Health.
By including community members early on, Han hopes the program will give people coming for their photo shoot the feeling that the clinic is designed for them. And after their appointment, patients were sent home with resources like a helpline number they could call if they had any questions about side effects.
“We want to make sure that we don’t just come in and provide that service and then pull out,” she says.
Data needs to guide practice
Researchers say having complete data about who gets vaccinated — and who isn’t — can improve vaccine rollout and Prevent problems from blacking out. Data gaps have been a problem since the early days of the pandemic, when only a few countries reported cases and deaths by race. Although Joe Biden has emphasized fair distribution of the vaccine as a priority, the Centers for Disease Control reports that there is data on the race and ethnicity of only 56.7% of vaccinated people.
However, not everyone wants to publish more information. In Wisconsin, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley says there can be resistance to collecting and publishing data showing divergent health outcomes between racial groups. “We have to say that racism was a problem,” Crowley says. But he adds, “Look at the data. It will tell you a story there.”
Established his province a covid-19 dashboard That reported detailed racial data before many other jurisdictions in the state, Crowley says. The county was allowed to work with the City of Milwaukee to open special sites to residents of certain zip codes.
“We didn’t find the silver bullet in all of this,” Crowley says. “But at the end of the day, we know the data tells a story, and we have to take advantage of that data.”
Because the data is public, other pandemic response teams outside of government can also use it. Making COVID-19 data transparent and accessible has helped community groups and academic researchers know where to focus their efforts, says Benjamin Weston, director of medical services for the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.
The dashboard also helped them see, in stark terms, that the communities hardest hit by Covid have historically faced broader health challenges. After seeing that coronavirus infection rates were high in places where people typically have heart problems, for example, the county decided to offer CPR training at coronavirus vaccination sites. Dan Bogar, M.D., director of EMS, says he expects about 10,000 people to receive CPR training in this way.
“This is an opportunity for us to work with other health systems to stream education and various initiatives into these communities,” Bujar says. “Covid is what really motivated this kind of analytical work.”
It might get more difficult from here, not easier
Public health and equity researchers aren’t surprised by the pandemic’s disparate impact on certain communities, according to Stephanie McClure, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama. Health disparities along racial and economic lines will likely become a national and local focal point — in April, CDC Director Rochelle Walinsky announce Racism is a “serious public health threat” — but that tide has yet to turn, McClure says.