It’s hard not to feel discouraged about where things stand now with COVID-19. After months and months of cases going down, we are seeing a spike in infection rates going up because of the Delta variant. It’s highly transmissible and causing a new wave among the unvaccinated. Experts predict that cases will increase further before they start to decline, though we’re not likely to see a comparable rise in hospitalizations or deaths in most areas in the country because 164 million Americans are fully vaccinated. Even so, there is a long way to go before we get out of the pandemic and the Delta variant upsurge means a different ground game is in order.
We sat down with Basim Khan, MD, Executive Director of Neighborhood Health, to get a sense of how he’s shifting his focus to ensure more underserved people are protected. Neighborhood Health was one of the initial 250 health centers chosen for the Community Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program back in December. Early on the health center, which serves a predominately low-income and uninsured patient population in Northern Virginia, set up seven vaccination sites in areas accessible to underserved communities and worked with 100 partner organizations — African American churches, organizations serving Latino and Asian communities, food assistance agencies and social service groups — to ensure anyone who needed a vaccine could get one. Now the center’s strategy is shifting to meeting the patients where they are, having a series of conversations to address concerns about the vaccine and counter misinformation. It’s not easy work, but it’s making a difference. To date, Neighborhood Health has administered 60,000 doses of COVID-19 and 85 percent have been to people of color and 79 percent to uninsured patients.
Our conversation Dr. Khan is part of a podcast series, Health Centers on the Front Lines, that NACHC is launching to chronicle the role of health centers in meeting this public health moment with courage, dedication and no small amount of humanity. Watch the video of our conversation below or you can listen anywhere you get your podcasts. Visit our podcast page for links to common podcast services.