By Hannah Sullivan
I started serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) in August of 2020. As the end of my service year now quickly approaches, I have been taking time to reflect on my experiences.
COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout – The Early Days
Easily the most exciting event over the past year was the Emergency Use Authorization and subsequent rollout procedure of an effective COVID-19 vaccine (well, technically three vaccines). When this process began in December, it was elating to think that life could potentially return to “normal,” but daunting to ponder the logistics of the mass distribution effort. The biggest challenge during this phase was trying to balance efficiency with equity. It was imperative to vaccinate as many people as possible while working to provide opportunities for people who had been most impacted already by the pandemic, and those facing barriers to access the vaccine. For example, a clinic with 1,000 appointment slots could fill within minutes if it was posted on the JCPH website, but it would be filled by folks with access to the internet, time, and flexibility. To make 1,000 calls and register people without computers would take many more resources.
Communities of color have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, having disproportionately high case, hospitalization and death rates across the U.S. and in Colorado. This disparate impact on communities of color is in large part due to systemic health inequities fueled by past and ongoing racism. Racism in the medical field has led to decreased trust in vaccines, and more hesitancy. To make matters worse, the anti-vaccine movement has recently targeted communities of color, specifically, with misinformation about vaccines in order to sow increased doubt and dissuade them from getting vaccinated.
By Ellie Dullea
Healthcare workers play an essential role as trusted vaccine advocates in the community. In a 2017 survey of 400+ Colorado parents, medical doctors were found to be the most influential factor in parents’ plan for their children’s immunizations. Similarly, immunization providers will play a vital role in increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates by easing patient concerns about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy and offering strong recommendations for vaccination.
By Briana Sprague, Perinatal Hepatitis B Prevention Coordinator at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
When I found out I was pregnant, my dream of having a child finally came true. There was nothing I wanted more in this life than to be a mother. I had known as long as I could remember that I was destined to become a mom. The birth of my son, Jackson, was singularly the best moment of my life. I knew instantly that I loved him more than anything and that protecting him was my new life mission. The first three days home from the hospital were probably the hardest days of my life but also the most rewarding. Each day that I get to watch my son grow tops the day before.
One thing I learned about myself after becoming pregnant is that I am scared of everything. While I’m not afraid to admit that, I am afraid of not being able to protect Jackson from everything that could potentially harm him. But that just isn’t possible.