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.
By Amy Bell
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of rapid health communications, especially as protocols change quickly as new information unfolds. During the pandemic, this has proved especially challenging for public health in keeping non-English speakers up to date with the latest information.
Dr. Lisa Diamond recently published a paper titled, “Providing Equitable Care to Patients with Limited Dominant Language Proficiency Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Dr. Diamond writes, “We know from years of research that patients with Limited English Proficiency experience disparities in timely receipt of public health messaging, understanding of important health information, and access to insurance and health care.”
As an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Immunize Colorado in Aurora, Colorado, I wanted to create a project that addressed these language barriers and helped get these communities access to the COVID-19 Vaccine.
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.