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A Community and Academic Partnership Enables Greater COVID-19 Vaccine Access

Loma Linda University worked with local leaders to help promote equitable delivery of COVID-19 vaccines in Black communities.

Social determinants, a legacy of distrust, and inequities have all been challenges for people of color in the delivery of health care. And these factors have translated to the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.

A recent study published in JAMA demonstrated Black and Latinx challenges surrounding COVID-19 vaccines. Investigators in New Haven, CT., conducted an in-depth focus group interviewing Black and Latinx participants to learn and understand factors associated with facilitating and obstructing COVID-19 vaccine access and acceptance. "Participants described 3 major themes that may represent facilitators and barriers to COVID-19 vaccinations: pervasive mistreatment of Black and Latinx communities and associated distrust; informing trust via trusted messengers and messages, choice, social support, and diversity; and addressing structural barriers to vaccination access,” the investigators wrote.

Another recent study reported that the median vaccination rate of white adults was 1.3 times higher than both Black and Hispanic adults. When combining the effects of disproportionate uptake and age-based eligibility, the study’s investigators estimated coverage among Black and Hispanic adults was one-third lower (29%) than among white adults (43%).

Although access has been part of the problem, another issue has been the lack of public health messaging to the communities of color.

Loma Linda University (LLU) in Loma Linda, Calif., was involved in a community and academic partnership earlier this year where members of the university and leaders within the local communities of San Bernardino County worked together to address vaccine hesitancy and increase access to the COVID-19 vaccines within the Black community.

From this partnership, project leader Jacinda Abdul-Mutakabbir, PharmD, MPH, AAHIVP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy, developed a poster, The Utility of Community-Academic Partnerships in Promoting the Equitable Delivery of COVID-19 Vaccines in Black Communities on this experience and presented it at this year’s ID Week.

The university hosts the biggest vaccination site in its county, San Bernadino. However, there is low representation of Black vaccinees. Abdul-Mutakabbir and faculty at Loma Linda worked with leaders from local Black churches to get the word out and communicate about the availability and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“From February 1 until April 30, 2021, 24,808 individuals were vaccinated in the LLU mass clinic with a first dose (Pfizer or Moderna) or single dose (Janssen) of a COVID-19 vaccine, however, only 908 (3.7%) were Black vaccinees. Contrastingly, the LLU remote site clinics vaccinated 1542 individuals with a first or single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Of those vaccinees, 675 (44%) were Black,” Abdul-Mutakabbir and coauthors wrote in their poster.

Along with protection against COVID-19, Abdul-Mutakabbir makes the point that preventative measures such as vaccines can help avoid hospital stays and subsequent health care associated infections and antimicrobial resistance. She believes vaccination goes hand-in-hand with antimicrobial stewardship.

Contagion spoke with her about her involvement in vaccine equity initiatives, and the significance of this area within health care.