April is National Minority Health Month, and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health is highlighting the key role individuals and organizations can play in helping to reduce health disparities and improve the health of racial and ethnic minorities and American Indian/Alaska Native communities. This year, the goal is the continued importance of COVID-19 vaccination; including booster shots, which is one of the best ways to protect communities from infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color. CDC data shows that racial and ethnic minority groups — particularly Black or African American, Hispanic, or Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native people are at increased risk of getting sick, having a more severe illness, and dying from COVID-19.
Pharmacists play a crucial role in vaccination efforts, especially for patients with underlying conditions or diseases. At Shields, our pharmacists diligently perform immunization screenings for patients. As part of our patient workups, we assess if patients are up to date on their immunizations by looking at their electronic medical records before we call them. Then, when we call the patient, we ask them if they have received the immunizations for which they are indicated. If they have, we are tracking them with their dates of receipt; if not, we are recommending and counseling these patients to receive them.
“I had a patient very concerned about the getting the COVID vaccine and I let the patient voice her concerns, Andrea said. “I counseled her comprehensively on how the benefit of the vaccine outweighed any risk and advised that it was more important for her to get it because of her pre-existing conditions. After our lengthy conversation and reading the resources I sent, the patient is now fully vaccinated and encourages her family to do the same.”
The Shields care model focuses on preventative care, and our immunization program aims to ensure patients are up to date on vaccines and if not, we intervene and follow up. Over the past couple of years, we have focused on the Covid vaccine and education. Fortunately, our model allows us the time to talk to our patients, get to know them and their concerns, and tailor this information to help them make an informed decision. We counsel our patients to help debunk myths and address any of their apprehensions, most of which can be seen in our minority patient population. What makes us unique is that we provide our patients with the necessary information to make an informed decision. We can let the patient think about it, and then follow up with the patient later to see if we can do anything else to help them get vaccinated. In addition, we can also help them set up a vaccine appointment for patients who are having issues such as technology concerns, language barriers, or are overwhelmed with the vaccine process, etc.
Shields has been extremely focused on ensuring our patients receive their Covid vaccines since vaccinations began in 2021. When patients are hesitant or resistant to receiving their Covid vaccine, we explore resistance, counsel, and debunk myths to give them the necessary information and research necessary to encourage vaccines. As many of our patients are on immunosuppressive therapy, we also collaborate with prescribers to ensure safe receipt of vaccines and counsel patients on any necessary spacing from their specialty medication.
Highlighting the significant role individuals and organizations play in helping to reduce health disparities can improve the health of racial and ethnic minorities.