Addressing vaccine hesitancy to improve health care equity

May 26, 2021 / By Leah Giordano

As of early May, only about 40 percent of Americans have been fully vaccinated according to the CDC, with most of those vaccinations occurring in large scale distribution centers, urban pop-up sites, pharmacies and doctor’s offices. As COVID-19 variants continue to surface, the faster we achieve herd immunity, when 70-85 percent of the population is vaccinated, the faster we can achieve health equity. Health equity assures conditions of optimal health for all people according to Dr. Louito Edje, the Associate Dean at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. 

Are there ways to reach herd immunity soon? Can newer technologies assist this process? And how do we navigate COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, which can be caused by many things:

  • Reluctance to participate in the vaccination process because of a lack of confidence. Do the vaccines demonstrate quality and effectiveness to someone who says, “I’m not a believer”?
  • Complacency about COVID-19: “I’m not at risk.”
  • Convenience of getting a vaccine. Many local governments are trying to address this concern and asking, “Is the vaccine easily available to the population regardless of location?”

For those hesitant to get the vaccine because of access issues or lack of convenience, recent technological advances may help. For example, home delivery, now widely available for everything from grocery orders to clothing purchases, could also be used to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. New routes could be developed to go out to the more rural areas of the country.

The pandemic has spawned new delivery options for so many items but as we become a more energy conscious society, we should consider solar power assisted vehicles and other eco-friendly options. This could enable deliveries to reach rural and underserved areas more efficiently and, potentially, at lower cost. Currently, vaccines for diseases the U.S. has already eradicated, like small-pox, measles, and polio, are being distributed to populations around the world via solar-powered technology, so why not in this country?

Vehicles could be fitted for ideal temperature controls that provide cool storage throughout vaccine transport from warehouses to local sites for vaccine distribution. Mobile cool-storage vaccine units could work through houses of worship, rural employment centers or urban community centers to reach the vaccine hesitant. Just as last summer saw the rise of in-home delivery service, perhaps cold storage vehicles could be the innovation of this summer. Sound far-fetched? Well, ice cream trucks have been doing this for years!  

How can employers help? 3M’s response is called Vaccination Pathways. The company has task force teams looking at providing onsite vaccinations at 3M offices administered by a third party, administered by 3M personnel, or administered by the local health department.

Why should you get vaccinated? To prevent your own health complications due to COVID, to prevent loss, and to get us all out of this pandemic. When we speed up the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, identify vaccine deserts and address health equity issues in underserved areas, we can beat this! 

Leah Giordano is the key account manager for the Regulatory and Government Affairs Team at 3M Health Information Systems.

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