Cindy Williams, vice president and chief pharmacy officer at Riverside Health System, and Leslie Baker, chief experience officer of Adjuvant.Health powered by Allied Physicians Group, presented the webinar “The COVID-19 Vaccine Is Being Distributed: Now What?” on Jan. 27.
The following are some key takeaways from the webinar of what healthcare organizations can do to prepare patients to receive the vaccine, challenges to look out for, and how to utilize patient communication best practices to educate and vaccinate as many patients as possible.
- Though the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are both 95 percent effective, they have very different refrigeration requirements and extremely short shelf lives once the vials are opened. Both require two doses roughly three to four weeks apart. Providers must put a great deal of time into logistical planning and organization to successfully manage the many complexities of scheduling and managing vaccination events, coordinating first and second doses, and tracking patient vaccinations. This may be the most challenging part of preparing to administer the vaccine to patients.
- The Pfizer vaccine is rated for ages 16 and up; the Moderna vaccine for ages 18 and up. More information about clinical trials on the younger age ranges of the vaccines should be coming in the next two to three months.
- Two other vaccine candidates are moving ahead in the approval process. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson candidate) may receive FDA emergency use authorization as soon as early February. The AstraZeneca candidate is a bit further out but could receive FDA emergency use authorization as soon as February or March. That could potentially significantly increase the supply of the vaccine in the near future.
Preparing for Challenges
- While some states are still working through Phase 1A (healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities) of the prioritized vaccine rollouts, others have moved into doing both Phases 1A and 1B (first responders and those 70 years of age and older). However, two weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) added two new demographics to Phase 1B, people ages 65 and older and persons with underlying medical conditions. As a result, vaccine demand is now far greater than weekly vaccine supply allotments. Providers may experience delays in getting the adequate supplies they need for Phase 1B, which could take months.
- Providers and local health departments may still lack the funding necessary to put the infrastructure in place in order to administer vaccines on a large scale. A good federal plan and adequate funding were lacking from the get-go.
- Cultivating existing relationships with local health department officials can help providers get much-needed vaccine information and greater access to available vaccine supplies.
- Providers can prepare the community for vaccinations and check the temperature of vaccine hesitancy by sending out surveys. Williams’ organization sent out surveys in September 2020 and found 28 percent were willing, 35 percent were against it, and 35 percent were on the fence. After information was released that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 95 percent effective and other patient education was shared, a November 2020 survey showed 60 percent of respondents were willing to take the vaccine. Surveys to older populations including residents at long-term care facilities showed even higher acceptance rates around 80 percent.
- Providers should act as the trusted authority to patients and the community when dispensing vaccine education. Position public relations efforts of physicians and staff getting the vaccine as examples of the vaccine’s safety and efficacy to patients.
- Use patient communication system to send out pre-visit information and instruction about the vaccine through texts and email. The more information you can share with your patients and the community about the vaccine the better.
- Utilize available technology including photos, videos, webinars, media interviews, and social media channels to educate patients, answer questions about the vaccine to lower vaccine hesitancy.
- Employ your digital patient communications system to text and email pre-vaccination surveys, patient education, and to keep patients informed about the latest vaccine information and availability and to prepare them for vaccination clinics.
For the latest educational information, tips and best practices on the COVID-19 vaccine sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mayo Clinic, and others, download the new guide, The COVID-19 Vaccine: A Resource Guide.