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The emerging COVID-19 vaccine rollout is a potential knockout blow for a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of individuals and families across the globe. A new article from the editors at Families, Systems, and Health reviews the challenges of vaccine dissemination and uptake and recommends the mobilization of interprofessional teams across primary care systems to meet these challenges head on.
One significant challenge is vaccine hesitancy which the World Health Organization named as one of the top 10 threats to global health back in 2019 before this pandemic even started. Vaccine hesitancy is defined as the refusal of vaccines or delay in acceptance despite availability of vaccinations services. In order to reach herd immunity from the virus, the US population will need at least 50-70% to be vaccinated. Unfortunately, current trends of misinformation and mistrust fuel an unprecedented challenge for public health officials.
The field of collaborative care has deep experience with team approaches to meet the health needs of patients. Polaha et al. recommend two strategies for teams preparing to distribute COVID-19 vaccines at the primary care level. First, identify an interdisciplinary vaccine team in your organization and develop or strengthen communication with public health officials in health departments. Second, conduct emergency preparedness and distribution tabletop exercises.
Historically, public health and healthcare systems in the US have had limited collaboration. The current pandemic is an opportunity for leaders and clinicians on both sides to synthesize accurate and timely information and distribute the vaccine. But health experts cannot do this alone; politicians, media figures, and other influencers should join the team too. This team effort will be especially important for overcoming the health disparities intrinsic in our systems.
Link to editorial: https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2020-97282-001.html