By Hannah Fryczynski
It’s no secret that for public health professionals everywhere, this last year and a half has been challenging, stressful, daunting, and at times disheartening. The pandemic has taken a toll on Americans in every way possible, including life expectancy and long-term physical and mental health outcomes. It has tested public health agencies’ capacity and resources and revealed all the ways in which public health organizations do not have the support and funding they truly need to respond to the nation’s most important health issues. In more recent times, the challenge has become fighting for the idea of public health itself – to promote and protect the health and wellbeing of all. Public health programs are critical to a nation’s health, whether that be at the national, state, or local level.
On September 15, Immunize Colorado hosted two of Colorado’s top immunization experts for a town-hall style panel discussion of the latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination. Panelists Dr. Sean O’Leary, Pediatric Infectious Diseases Specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, and Heather Roth, Immunization Branch Chief at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), answered audience questions about COVID-19 variants, COVID-19 vaccines (including potential booster doses and availability for young children), and the status of routine vaccination in Colorado.
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.