The Importance of Ensuring Equitable Access and Education on COVID-19 Vaccines

Pharmacy Times® interviewed Sue Peschin, president and CEO of Alliance for Aging Research, on the work that the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project is doing to support education about and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Pharmacy Times® interviewed Sue Peschin, the president and CEO of Alliance for Aging Research, on the work that the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project is doing to support education and equitable access to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines.

Alana Hippensteele: Does the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project have any plans in light of the recent EUA for a COVID-19 vaccine and another EUA potentially imminent?

Sue Peschin: We do. We're focused on convening a dialogue with a broad and diverse range of stakeholders on the importance of the clinical trials process on regulatory review and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

You know, there's going to be other vaccines that are coming out, and we need more people to join the available clinical trials, and we need folks to trust in the clinical trials and regulatory review process. So that's a big part of the dialogue to help ensure the equitable access and adoption our project, the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, is really doing, in addition to engaging with a broad and diverse set of stakeholders, to provide clear and culturally competent information.

So, some of our materials are also available in Spanish that can be easily downloaded. We're also trying to invite discussion and underscore the processes that are already in place to maintain scientific rigor and ensure inclusion among the groups and the stakeholders necessary to meet this challenge and make sure that they're testing in the groups that are most disproportionately impacted.

We also want to make sure that there's a conversation about equitable access to the vaccines themselves and equitable access to information and dialogue around them. I really think that both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have that top of mind, as do the researchers, and this is really an unprecedented effort in that regard.

We're also exploring a number of opportunities to engage our partners and their constituencies, as well as to reach individuals directly through things like PSA campaigns and digital ads—things like that. We're going to share more soon, but you can check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn by following our handle, which is @COVIDVxProject.

Alana Hippensteele: Excellent. Have there been any developments of note in regard to the recent vaccine authorization?

Sue Peschin: Well, just this morning I thought it was so exciting at Walter Reed, vice president Pence and his wife Karen, as well as surgeon general Dr. Jerome Adams, all got the COVID-19 vaccine, so I think it's a great example they did on live television this morning. I think it's really, for folks who in particular are fans, I think it's going to have a great amount of influence. And for the surgeon general, in particular, he is an African-American, he spoke about his experience also as someone who lives with asthma, as do I actually, and the importance of getting the vaccine to protect himself, to protect his family, and to protect the broader community.

Alana Hippensteele: Are there any challenges that the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project is focusing on right now in regard to the distribution and administration of these COVID-19 vaccines?

Sue Peschin: Yeah, I mean, now that the first COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for use and the second one is on its way to being authorized, we're really working to reach those who are in the first group. There's a group A, B, and C that the CDC has designated. In A, that group includes health professionals and people who reside in long-term care settings, so we want to make sure that they have the information they need to feel confident and to have as much uptake as possible there. Pharmacists are really going to play a pivotal role in this stage and in our efforts, and so that's why we're so thrilled to be partnering with all of you.