We’re light years ahead of where we were a year ago in the battle against COVID but that doesn’t mean there’s still not room for improvement in vaccinating as many Americans as possible.
About 67 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine dose as of July 6, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s very close to President Joe Biden’s goal of inoculating 70 percent of American adults by the Fourth of July holiday. While reaching that milestone is cause for great optimism, there remains daunting hurdles in the nation’s path to achieving herd immunity.
Tragically, those who have opted not to receive the vaccine are beginning to show up in daily and weekly new case, hospitalization, and death figures. Nearly all recent COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are in people who weren’t vaccinated. For example, only 150 of the 18,000 of COVID deaths in May were in fully vaccinated people. But despite significant slowing of demand for the vaccine since May, many people, including the vaccine hesitant, are still choosing to receive it on a daily basis. Roughly 900,000 doses are still be administered daily.
Another growing concern is that the more-transmissible Delta strain of the coronavirus has quickly become the dominant version in the U.S. It accounted for more than half of the COVID cases in the U.S. between June 20 and July 3. Not only does the Delta strain spread more easily, but the vaccines’ effectiveness against it also not fully known. For example, though the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had an effectiveness of 88 percent protecting against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant, Israel’s Ministry of Health reported July 5 that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine was 64 percent against all COVID infections, down from 95 percent in May before the variant began to proliferate in Israel.
In response to declining demand for the vaccine amid increases in the prevalence of the Delta variant, President Biden this week unveiled more targeted vaccine efforts:
- Take a targeted community by community approach of door-to-door outreach.
- Make a fresh push to get the vaccines to 42,000 local pharmacies as well as to family physicians and pediatricians’ offices to vaccinate more children ages 12 to 18.
- Work with employers to make the vaccines available in the more workplaces through mobile vaccine clinics.
- Rollout vaccines clinics at sporting events, places of worship, summer festivals, and other public events.
What does this mean for healthcare organizations? It’s a ripe opportunity and potential touch point to reach out to your patients and the larger community to help educate and inoculate the unvaccinated. While some people may never change their minds, many others that comprise the unvaccinated are simply those who are vaccine hesitant or for whatever reason have not had a chance to get the shot. Through education and encouragement, many of these individuals will still choose to get the vaccine.
The following are four approaches to help providers better understand patients’ vaccine concerns and avenues to create renewed opportunities for them to get inoculated:
- Primary care doctors and family physicians are often patients’ most trusted source of health information. Leverage that relationship to ask them if they’ve received the vaccine and if not, to identify what their concerns might be. This is a fantastic opportunity to help educate patients about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, and that there’s no cost to getting the doses.
- Ask patients at appointment check-in if they’ve been able to receive both vaccine doses and if they’re like to receive a dose at the visit.
- Many individuals between the ages of 18–29 and 30–49 have not gotten the vaccine. Send group emails targeted to those demographics to let them know your vaccine availability and ask them to reply to the text to schedule an appointment to get a dose.
- When sending text notifications to patients for routine preventive maintenance and recall, tell patients they can easily receive the vaccine at the time of their in-office visit.
For more well-sourced information, best practices, and tips on helping your patients receive the COVID vaccine, check out “The COVID Vaccine: A Resource Guide.”