As vaccines roll out, fair and equitable distribution into the communities most affected by COVID-19 is a national priority. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the first 2 1/2 months of the U.S. vaccination program, disparities in vaccination coverage — the percentage of people in the United States who have received COVID-19 vaccines — were observed in the majority of states. The CDC has urged continued monitoring of vaccination coverage using metrics that take into account multiple factors that may affect vaccination access, including age, race, income, level of education, and housing and transportation access. Because finding ways to equitably distribute vaccines to hard-hit communities and other vulnerable populations is critical, Kaiser Permanente has created a COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Toolkit.
The toolkit, built on key learnings and best practices, offers resources and strategies for care delivery organizations, health plans, and state and local governments to ensure everyone has access to lifesaving vaccines. Specifically, it provides tools for measuring and reporting equity in vaccinations and recommends interventions to target the administration of vaccines to vulnerable communities.
Sharing and contributing to best practices for COVID-19 vaccine administration is part of Kaiser Permanente’s focus on achieving equitable conditions for health, particularly in Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other communities of color. When it comes to vaccination, these communities are most likely to face significant barriers fueled by lack of access, misinformation, and structural inequities that have made medical and public health systems unreliable for far too many people.
Other vulnerable populations at risk for COVID-19 due to age, high-risk health conditions, or geography also need easily available access to vaccines. Kaiser Permanente is integrating many of the strategies described in the toolkit to enhance vaccine equity among members and communities, including ensuring access to convenient vaccination sites and making it easier for people to find and register for vaccination appointments regardless of their access to the internet or level of computer skills.
The key equity enablers explained in the toolkit build upon and are informed by efforts Kaiser Permanente has underway, including:
“For vaccinations to succeed, they have to reach everyone, especially those in hard-hit communities,” said David Grossman, MD, MPH, interim senior vice president of social and community health at Kaiser Permanente.
“This toolkit has resources for providers, community organizations, and anyone involved in vaccine administration to help get vaccinations to the people most at risk for COVID-19. We need to share the lessons we have gathered as a health system and make tools available to ensure equitable protection from this disease’s most devastating effects,” added Stephen Parodi, MD, national infectious disease leader at Kaiser Permanente.