Walgreens Pushes Programs to Improve COVID-19 Vaccine Equity

In the LinkedIn Live session, “The Road Toward Vaccine Equity Webinar,” Walgreens highlighted their efforts toward helping fill the important gaps in care that address the unique concerns of minority communities.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so does the disproportionate impact of the virus on different populations in the country. In the LinkedIn Live session, “The Road Toward Vaccine Equity Webinar,” Walgreens highlighted their efforts toward helping fill the important gaps in care that address the unique concerns of minority communities.

According to Kevin Ban, chief medical officer of Walgreens, there is a huge issue of vaccine hesitancy in both of these populations.

“Both African Americans and Hispanics have been disproportionately impacted the COVID-19 infection, but these are the same people that are reluctant to getting the vaccine,” Ban said during the webinar.

The barriers to entry for many African American and Hispanic populations include people who are underinsured or uninsured, being misinformed on the vaccine, and mistrust in health care professionals. Carlos Cubia, global chief diversity officer of the Walgreens Boots Alliance, emphasized that although minority communities are cognizant of the health disparities in their area, the COVID-19 pandemic brought them to the forefront.

“If these disparities go unnoticed, it will be catastrophic,” Cubia said in the webinar. “We have to pay attention and remove these barriers so we can create a more equitable system.”

As a solution to these barriers, Cubia mentioned the creation of the Vaccine Equity Task Force to further educate the community, create access, and use formulate partnerships with other organizations. In addition, a national partnership with Uber is in the works to offer 10 million rides through Walgreens to get the vaccine and to help stop the disproportionate travel in these communities.

Karen Freeman-Wilson, president and CEO of Chicago Urban League, said there is an opportunity through organizations such as hers to provide education and motivate the public to vaccinate themselves and their families.

“We believe we are positioned to help our colleagues to deliver these multi-layered messages that are not as simplistic as people would like to think them to be,” Freeman-Wilson said in the webinar.

Specifically, in the Chicago area, Freeman-Wilson wants to continue working with the city and the state of Illinois to ensure her organization is creating as many public forums and other activities to let everyone ask their questions about the virus and vaccine.

“One of the ways you become less hesitant is if there is someone who is engaged in the partnership and someone who is willing to stand flat footed and answer any question people have,” Freeman-Wilson said.

As for what Walgreens will be doing for the future of underserved populations, Ban mentioned how important it is for him and other organizations to listen to what the top concerns are so they can be addressed.

In addition, serving the community with testing sites and vaccine locations is fundamentally important, but it isn’t enough for these communities. Having pharmacists who are available to reach out to eligible patients and help them schedule their vaccines is vital, as these efforts will continue to educate the public and stop barriers of access, according to Ban.

“When you have a relationship with someone, information comes off in a different way and can ask specific questions that pertain to you, so have trust in your pharmacist,” Ban added.

Freeman-Wilson shared that getting the information out there is not a “one-size-fits-all” situation, as the messenger and how the message is delivered can be different based on your audience, which is important for something like COVID-19.

“We are willing to provide information to the public, like these forums, on a weekly basis because it is important to get access to this information and have questions answered,” Freeman-Wilson said.

REFERENCE

Walgreens Live: The Road Towards Vaccine Equity. LinkedIn Live. February 26, 2021.