April is National Minority Health Month (NMHM), part of the ongoing effort to improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and programs that will help eliminate health disparities.
This year, the NMHM theme is #VaccineReady. The unfortunate reality is that, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted racial and ethnic minority communities and underscores the need for these vulnerable communities to get vaccinated as more vaccines become available.”
From the start of UC Health’s participation in Moderna’s phase 3 vaccine clinical trial in June 2020 to today, the health system has made minority healthcare and supporting our area’s most vulnerable populations a priority in the vaccine trial and rollout.
“At UC Health, we’re committed to providing an environment of inclusion that supports the diversity of our employees, physicians, patients, visitors, suppliers and communities,” said Jeanetta Darno, chief diversity officer at UC Health. “As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to do everything we can as a leader in healthcare for our region to help ensure health equity and equal access for all our friends and neighbors.”
Below are some of the ways UC Health has helped to make the region #VaccineReady not just in April, but over the past few months.
Moderna Phase 3 COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial
From the outset of its participation in the Moderna Phase 3 COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial, the University of Cincinnati and UC Health made it a priority to engage minority and at-risk populations to help ensure underrepresented members of the community have the opportunity to take part.
UC and UC Health’s trial surpassed 49% enrollment of minority populations:
- 25% Black or African American
- 20.35% Hispanic
- 1.74% More than one race
- 1.16% Asian
In September, UC Health welcomed federal officials Gen. Gustave F. Perna and Dr. Moncef Slaoui, chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed, to Cincinnati to tour the clinical trial facility, meet with site leadership and discuss the federal government’s unprecedented effort to develop safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in addition to highlighting the great work being done in phase 3 clinical trials across the country.
At the time, Dr. Slaoui told reporters, "What stands out here is really the engagement of minority populations," adding the way minorities are being recruited in UC/UC Health's trial served as a model for other trial sites.
"That's historic because, normally, minority groups tend to shy away from research projects because of the history, especially African Americans and research. So, I was happy to see UC has worked hard in reaching out to the community," said Dr. O'dell Owens with Interact for Health.
Vaccine Availability Through Community Vaccination Center
Recently, UC Health’s COVID-19 Community Vaccination Center, located at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute in Clifton, administered its 100,000th dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Since it opened in January, the Vaccination Center has offered a seamless and simple drive-through experience – as well as walk-through for those who used public transportation to visit the clinic – to anyone who made an appointment. Individuals did not need to be an Ohio resident or a patient of UC Health.
And in April, it became even easier to receive a vaccine through UC Health. Appointments are no longer required on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays as part of a new, simplified option for receiving the vaccine.
Appointments are also still available by calling 513-584-DOSE.
Working with Community Partners
UC Health has engaged with several local community partners to reach minority populations across Greater Cincinnati.
“We’re very fortunate to have such supportive community partners to help us reach, educate and care for our region’s minority populations,” said Tamara Lang, director of community relations for UC Health. “That collaboration, combined with our outstanding clinical teams and leaders, has helped spread the word that the vaccine is safe, effective and how we will move beyond the pandemic.”
- UC Health partnered with two organizations – Su Casa Hispanic Center and Santa Maria – to help Spanish-speaking community members schedule vaccinations.
- UC Health also worked with Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio and Queens Village – an initiative of Cradle Cincinnati that works with Black mothers to address factors around infant mortality – providing 258 appointments in March and April.
- UC Health distributed a Community Resource Toolkit with multilingual resources to community organizations upon request.
Sharing a Voice, Advocating for Equality
Since December, UC Health experts have participated in media interviews, many specifically addressing Black audiences, about the COVID-19 vaccine, its efficacy and how it can help protect the community.
UC Health physicians and leaders also participated in speaking engagements about the vaccine at community organizations/events with minority audiences:
- “Where Are We Now” Town Hall on COVID-19 with Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece
- Latino Health Collaborative
- Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee
- Greater Cincinnati Association of Black Journalists
- Hamilton County Fatherhood Project
- Community Action Agency
- Cincinnati Health Network
Still More Work to Do
While there has been tremendous progress in administering the vaccine, there is still plenty of work to do, especially among the area’s minority populations, to ensure community members are #VaccineReady and take the opportunity to protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19
According to the Ohio Department of Health, as of April 28, 24.3% of Hispanic or Latino and 22.9% of Black residents in Hamilton County have received the vaccine. Compared to 43.97% of white residents.
UC Health continues to look for ways to engage with and support minority populations across the region, to ensure they have access to the vaccine.
Resources: HHS Office of Minority Health