Reducing barriers to care | COVID-19 vaccines
As soon as the COVID-19 vaccines became available – first for frontline caregivers working selflessly to care for patients – the Providence family of organizations mobilized to:
- Offer community education, answer questions about the vaccine’s efficacy and safety, and respond to vaccine hesitancy
- Reach high-risk and under-resourced populations that historically have faced barriers to access
- Establish clinics to provide vaccines at mass vaccination sites, drive-through locations and smaller mobile clinics
Caregivers were laser-focused on ensuring the vaccines were distributed efficiently and equitably across all seven states Providence serves. These are just some examples of how our family of organizations in Southern California, Oregon and Washington joined or created public-private partnerships to spread the word about vaccine availability and safety, and to administer as many doses as possible.
Southern California: Leaving no one behind
In Orange County, studies found that, despite experiencing high COVID-19 infection rates, vaccine hesitancy was most common among Hispanic or Latinx populations. The lack of reliable information was identified as a significant barrier. Without answers to their questions, people understandably were less comfortable getting vaccinated.
To increase awareness and share the best available information about the vaccines among Hispanic and Latinx communities, Providence Mission Hospital Family Resource Center found new ways to reach the hard-to-reach. The most effective approach in Orange County was the use of promotoras, individuals (often community health workers) trusted and respected in the Hispanic community, who provide health education and answer questions about the vaccine. Promotoras visited churches, schools and homes to have open conversations, build relationships and in many cases, deliver vaccinations.
In Orange County during 2021, Providence community health workers distributed 76,000 COVID-19 kits.
In 2021, community health workers in Orange County distributed more than 76,000 COVID kits and supported more than 12,000 individuals, including connecting 7,700 people to additional resources or services.
In Los Angeles County, Providence used existing deep connections in under-resourced communities to quickly begin COVID-19 testing at the beginning of the pandemic and then added pop-up clinics in areas with the highest rates of transmission. As time went on, community health workers reached out to those who were hesitant about vaccines. More than 221,000 people were reached, including more than 7,200 who were tested and nearly 20,000 vaccinated.
In Los Angeles County, more than 221,000 people were reached, including more than 7,200 who were tested and nearly 20,000 vaccinated through 255 clinics.
Reflecting on this work, Jim Tehan, regional director of Community Health Investment, says, “I am so proud of our team for their perseverance and dedication in 2021 to reaching every eligible person and encouraging them to protect themselves and their family members. Our work continues into 2022.”
Alma Nava, staff member at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, San Fernando, Calif., received her COVID-19 vaccine with Providence Community Health during a COVID clinic at the school.
Oregon: Teaming up to connect with all communities
Cooperation was the answer when Providence in Oregon, Kaiser Permanente and Medical Teams International teamed up in April 2021 to open and operate community vaccine clinics across Portland and the Willamette Valley.
The partners relied heavily on local organizations and leaders reaching out to their communities to get people registered for vaccine appointments. Mt. Olivet, Portland’s first African American Baptist church, served as a temporary vaccination clinic for the community. It provided a low-barrier, inclusive space for historically under-resourced populations to be vaccinated.
In Oregon, Providence partnered with other organizations to provide 30,000 COVID-19 vaccines at an array of community clinics.
This approach to community-based outreach led to more than 30,000 people receiving the vaccine at an array of community clinics. Additionally, more than 500 community clinics served the Portland area to reach populations at higher risk for COVID-19, including Black, Indigenous, and people of color, farmworkers, and people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity across Oregon.
Puget Sound: Swedish partners to reach many
In Central Puget Sound, Swedish wasted no time preparing for expected vaccines, forming partnerships with local companies, organizations and government agencies in late 2020 to be ready for mass distribution as soon as vaccines became available. On January 12, 2021, Swedish opened Washington State’s first community vaccination clinic in partnership with Seattle University. Staffed by thousands of clinical and non-clinical volunteers, the clinic administered more than 2,500 vaccine doses per day for six straight weeks.
To help ensure vaccine outreach, access and distribution were equitable across the region, Swedish also deployed mobile pop-up clinics as another way for people to receive a vaccination. The mobile clinics were coordinated in partnership with several locally-based businesses, and focused on reaching people who lived in COVID “hot spots,” where infection rates were disproportionately high. The mobile clinics administered more than 7,900 doses across King County.
Swedish joined with other Seattle-based organizations to operate the largest civilian-led vaccination clinic in the U.S. from March to June, 2021. More than 102,000 doses were provided.
When the vaccine supply increased and more people became eligible for shots, Swedish formed additional partnerships – this time with the City of Seattle and First and Goal – to run the “largest civilian-led vaccination clinic in the country” at Lumen Field, a stadium in Seattle’s SODO neighborhood. More than 102,000 vaccine doses were administered at the Lumen Field Community Clinic from March 13 to June 12, 2021.
Responding to this ongoing, unprecedented pandemic has placed incredible demands on the health care community. Across the Providence family of organizations, we are grateful to our many partners for joining with us to make COVID-19 vaccine education and distribution accessible to all community members. Together, we are saving lives.