Community Health Centers have administered more than 10 million vaccine doses and have increased the number of vaccines they initiate each week by almost five-fold from January 8 to May 7. As they begin the last mile of the vaccination campaign to end the pandemic, their efforts are now directed toward developing successful models to bring the shots and primary care services to populations in need, whether it is agricultural workers in the farm fields or urban neighborhoods across America. The massive effort has not been without its challenges. As vaccine supply has increased, finding staff to administer vaccines remains difficult, according to a new NACHC analysis.
The publication, The First Three Months: COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment, also tracks the difficulties health centers have getting reimbursed financially for vaccines because reimbursement policies vary from state to state. Some health centers go without insurance payment for the vaccination for lengthy periods of time. Even so, these obstacles haven’t stopped their rapid pace — health centers are completing 500,000 vaccines each week, the majority of which are administered to underserved communities and people of color. The health center success in the vaccination effort to ensure equity was noted earlier this month at a White House COVID-19 Task Force Briefing (see NACHC press release). Dr. Marcella Nuñez Smith, MD, Co-Chair of the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, noted that “approximately 60 percent of shots have been administered to people of color. And since our Community Health Center program started, about 70 percent of shots administered through those centers have gone to people of color as well.”
The upshot is that, yes, there are challenges, but health centers are evolving to meet them. We’re also at a turning point in the effort, with a downswing of COVID infections and deaths. with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending that everyone 12 years and older get COVID-19 vaccination, the task remains to engage families who remain “vaccine hesitant.”
NACHC is posting regular updates on data regarding the work of health centers and vaccines and we’ll continue to keep you updated on new developments.