COVID-19 Vaccine Equity: Empowerment and Outreach is Key

Mar 1 2021

As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available to more individuals throughout our country, how can we help ensure that everyone has the same access to this important prevention method?

At Mercy Health, we are working hard at this time to connect with underserved and minority populations. In providing these groups with resources and information about the COVID-19 vaccine, we hope to empower them to be able to make the best decision for themselves when the time comes.

“We know that hesitancy about the vaccine among minorities can be a factor,” shares Shivonne Laird, PhD, MPH, system director of community health impact (pictured left). “The reasons can vary between groups. But everyone should have equal access to the information they need.”

When it comes to the likelihood of a person getting vaccinated, we understand that trust is usually a factor. Not only have underserved communities been at higher risk with contracting COVID-19, they have also often become very sick from the virus due to underlying health conditions and limited access to care. These community members can often be essential and frontline workers. They are also more likely to live in multigenerational households, both of which factors into their risks.

In order for each person in our country to grow, thrive and reach their fully potential, we must organize our society in a way that provides everyone with both social and economic resources. When all of these factors come together, communities are health and strong. Healthy communities include aspects like functional and affordable housing, employment opportunities, access to quality health care, safe public places, quality education as well as cultural and recreational opportunities. Each person’s health and life expectancy are tied to the health of the community that they live in.

“Addressing inequity, in all of its forms, is what drives me every day to be part of this work that our ministry is doing,” says Dr. Laird. “In my personal and professional life, I am always looking for ways to support community health improvement. I especially love finding ways to connect marginalized and underserved communities to individuals or organizations with resources that can help. Most important is understanding and addressing the underlying causes for the disparities that exist.”

Wherever we can, our community health team members are engaging with their partners, listening to their needs and reducing barriers. A great example of this is that our team members now have a set of resource materials specifically for the COVID-19 vaccine. These resources include evidence-based vaccine facts, answers to common vaccine questions and custom information addressing vaccine concerns specific to vulnerable populations.

Additionally, what we are learning from these community members now will be used to improve our health care services moving forward. We continue to look for any and all partnerships, whether those be at the local, state or national level, to improve the coordination of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts include reducing the number of barriers to access resources, building trust, providing accurate information and ultimately providing access to the vaccine itself.

Why is this work such a priority for us? Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is directly tied to our mission of extending the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being of our communities and bring good help to those in need. Our COVID-19 vaccine outreach and empowerment efforts are one way to help reduce the impact of this pandemic on populations most at risk.

We support and will continue to support the equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the communities we serve.

To learn more about COVID-19 vaccination, visit the CDC’s website.

Also, stay updated on what Mercy Health is doing related to COVID-19.

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