It’s encouraging that in the ongoing battle against the pandemic, we’re continually seeing greater vaccination coverage and momentum in the vaccine rollout. For the last two weeks straight, the U.S. has dispensed more than 3 million doses of the COVID vaccine daily. The following is a look at some other ways we’re succeeding in fighting the pandemic and also some areas identified for increased education and outreach efforts.
On April 21, the U.S. marked a milestone of hitting President Joe Biden’s vaccine distribution goal of having administered 200 million doses of the vaccine by his 100th day in office. More than 50 percent of U.S. adults are partially vaccinated and 32.5 percent or 84 million people are fully vaccinated. Biden said the country is still on track to meet his goal for states to allow small gatherings to celebrate Independence Day.
Another benchmark reached this week is that the COVID vaccine is now available in all 50 states to all people ages 16 and up.
Health experts hope be able to recommence distributing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as soon as this week after it was put on pause in the U.S. due to safety concerns. Six cases out of 7 million doses administered found unusual blood clotting similar to what Europe recently experienced with the AstraZeneca vaccine. Nearly 8 million J&J vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. thus far with the vast majority of people experiencing either mild or no side effects.
Another concern is the growing surge in coronavirus cases in some parts of the country over the past month. In the past week, the U.S. saw an average of more than 67,000 new COVID infections daily. Even more worrisome, 75 percent of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. are coming from five states—New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Florida. Health experts say the cases in those states are stemming from a handful of factors, including variant spread; a rise in infections in the younger, often-unvaccinated individuals; relaxed prevention efforts and safety restrictions; and pandemic fatigue. Experts say the larger outbreaks have been fueled by Easter and spring break activities.
However, perhaps the biggest concern right now is that vaccine supply may soon outstrip demand. Health authorities say the U.S. will reach a tipping point in the next two to four weeks where vaccine enthusiasm will begin to wane as people actively seeking the vaccine will have received the shots. This will make vaccine encouragement more difficult and also herd immunity, estimated at somewhere between 70-85% vaccinated, harder to achieve. Slowing demand could also give dangerous variants of the virus to mutate, spread, and set off new surges.
Health leaders and organizations will need to roll up their sleeves and redouble efforts to help people understand how vital the vaccines are, the urgency to have everyone vaccinated, and to assist those who may have lingering concerns about the vaccines.
Patient Education and Outreach
This is where health organizations, particularly those administering the COVID vaccines, can play a crucial role in continuing to encourage, educate, and emphasize the importance of inoculation. In many cases, practices will need to help patients overcome vaccine hesitancy. Providers can most effectively and efficiently communicate with patients about the vaccine in the following ways:
- Automated text messages with patient education about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy
- Group text health alerts to eligible patients about vaccination availability and scheduling
- Automated text reminders to patients about vaccination appointments
- Automated text surveys to identify vaccine hesitancy among patients
Many healthcare organizations have recently applied a text-first approach to quickly and efficiently reach out to large numbers of patients, their families, and even staff to communicate vaccine education and dose distribution. For example:
- Allied Physicians Group offered webinars about COVID and other topics and used texts and social media to get the word out about the patient education.
- Boston Children’s Hospital used their patient engagement tech to communicate with and schedule staff to receive the vaccine.
- A large health system in Alaska leveraged group texting to schedule 5,000 vaccine doses over several weeks.
For an all-in-one guide containing facts, best practices, and well-sourced guidance about the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccines to share with your patients, check out, “The COVID Vaccine: A Resource Guide.”