Mercy Health in West Michigan has distributed 21,960 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to date. Of the vaccines distributed, 3% of those doses have gone to Black people and 3% have gone to Latino people. That’s a number that the health system is hoping to improve.
Dr. Karen Kennedy is Regional Medical Director for Mercy Health Physician Partners. She says marginalized communities don't always trust the healthcare system, due to racist treatment in the past.
Dr. Kennedy says community health workers, who live and work in at-risk communities, are crucial to sharing accurate information about the vaccine.
"I will say it’s not always just about the amount of information out there. It’s about who is telling these populations the information and whether or not these populations trust it," she says.
Dr. Andrew Jameson is the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control for Mercy Health. He says education and outreach is important, but it can't do everything. That was the push behind putting a full-time healthcare worked trained to administer vaccines in Mercy Health's Clinica Santa Maria.
"So rather than trying to educate, hunt down, try to do this big community outreach, we’re going to try to meet people where they’re at, so that as they see their doctor, so that as they get to a situation and an environment where they trust," Dr. Jameson says. Mercy Health is starting with 10 doses of the vaccine per week, and is hoping that with people comfortable in their primary care environment, they can get accurate information from people they trust and will make a vaccination appointment or even get it on the spot.
Another effort to reach vulnerable populations Mercy Health is trying is a pop up vaccine clinic at Browning-Klaytor in Grand Rapids. The clinic will have 200 doses to distribute over the course of a single day. Dr. Kennedy says they’ve reached out to people in the zip codes who are 75 and older, and people 65 and older with conditions that predispose them to COVID-19.