How do hospitals educate patients about vaccination? 3 hospital execs weigh in

The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is a complex process toward which the public often feels confused and distrustful.

Hospitals and health systems serve as hubs for reliable information about public health, and many patients turn to them to better understand how they should go about their lives amid the pandemic.

Here, three health system leaders discuss their plans to educate patients on COVID-19 vaccination.

Robert Salata, MD, chair of the department of medicine at UH Cleveland Medical Center and program director of the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health, University Hospitals (Cleveland): In this unprecedented time, there are still no proven preventive approaches available for COVID-19. Effective and safe vaccines have been critical in the fight against many global infectious diseases, saving millions of lives. This holds true for COVID-19 as well. A vaccine is our best hope to effectively deal with this devastating virus. Throughout the pandemic, our infectious disease specialists have made sharing information about COVID-19 a priority. Since February, our physicians have appeared in hundreds of television, print and online news stories addressing COVID-19 in general, including the recent availability of vaccine trials. 

UH reaches thousands of people through our social media platforms and is sharing information about our participation in the Pfizer trial through this medium as well. These methods, along with efforts to specifically educate minority patients at UH Otis Moss Jr. Health Center in Cleveland’s Midtown neighborhood, ensure the people of Northeast Ohio have ample information regarding COVID-19 vaccine trials.

Sanjeeb Khatua, MD, chief physician executive and COVID-19 incident commander, Edward-Elmhurst Health (Warrenville, Ill.): We discussed vaccine education Wednesday, Sept. 9 in our COVID-19 steering committee. We brought together a multidisciplinary group (vaccine task force) that will analyze the science, ability to procure, storage and safety, protocols around operationalizing immunization administration for internal stakeholders, as well as communications/marketing to our internal stakeholders. Its first meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The group will also look at operationalizing immunization protocols for the communities we serve and marketing around the vaccine to our communities. We will work also with legislators and the county health departments to help coordinate our response for our internal and external stakeholders as more information becomes available. We are unsure of how procurement will be assessed from a legislative perspective, so I want to make sure that they are aware we are committed to our communities. 

Lori Tishler, MD, senior vice president of medical affairs, Commonwealth Care Alliance (Boston): While we wait for a COVID-19 vaccine that is safe and effective, we are focused first on educating our 37,000 members about the process of vaccine development and public health and reminding them that no vaccine will take the place of smart hygiene and preventive care. We want to ensure that all of our members continue to get their flu shots, wash their hands and take other steps to stay healthy. These efforts have made an enormous difference around the world, and will help address the spread of COVID-19 long into the future. We are also working with our partners in the community and local government to ensure an equitable distribution plan once a safe and effective vaccine is available.


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