5 actions that promote COVID-19 vaccine equity

The U.S. has called on health systems to create and implement their own strategies to administer COVID-19 vaccines as equitably and efficiently as possible. Health systems must continue to refine these efforts, while still maintaining positive momentum with their vaccination campaigns, two leaders from Beth Israel Lahey Health wrote in an April 7 article in JAMA Health Forum. 

The article's authors are:

  • Leonor Fernández, MD, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, both in Boston

  • Peter Shorett, chief integration officer at Boston-based Beth Israel Lahey Health 

In the article, Dr. Fernández and Mr. Shorett outlined five key lessons about vaccine equity based on the system's own efforts to vaccinate 1.6 million patients. 

1. Obtain reliable patient demographic data. Consistent access to accurate, complete data will help health systems know where to direct their vaccination strategies and outreach, according to Dr. Fernández and Mr. Shorett.

2. Intentionally address structural inequities. "An institution’s approach to engaging patients can reinforce or reduce structural inequities," they said. For example, Beth Israel Lahey Health opted to send patients texts about vaccine appointments, instead of using its online patient portal, since not all patients may have access to a computer or know how to use the portal. 

3. Speak patients' languages. After discovering it was booking fewer vaccination appointments for patients who spoke limited English, the health system adjusted its reach-out approach to be more conscious of language access and literacy.  

4. Include diverse stakeholders in decision-making. Health systems should include diverse patient voices, community-based organizations and staff perspectives in decisions about where to place vaccination sites, how to approach patient communications and more. 

5. Ensure leadership embraces equity as a fundamental value. Leaders must start the conversation on health equity and emphasize that it's a key priority for the health system. This transparency will build a more inclusive and trusting culture in which employees feel safe to speak up and shape decision-making, Dr. Fernández and Mr. Shorett wrote. 

To view the full article, click here.

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