With news of the COVID vaccination changing seemingly daily, the Healthcare Foundation is keeping our community aware of the up-to-the-minute information on who, where, when, and how to get vaccinated. Last Thursday, Executive Director Kim Bender invited a group of experts to join her in discussing health equity, vaccine confidence, and vaccine anxiety at the virtual Pulse on The Vaccine panel. The panel provided an opportunity for the community to learn the latest on-the-ground information about the vaccine while giving attendees a chance to interact directly with the frontline experts through a Q&A session.
Participating in the panel were medical doctors Jennifer Fish and Kendal Hamann, Clinical Psychologist Michael Valdovinos, Medical Director Sue Labbe and Community Coordinator Chelene Lopez, all who work directly with at-risk populations in Northern Sonoma County. All the providers took the time to thank the Healthcare Foundation for giving them an opportunity to to reinforce the message that through our pandemic fatigue, our resilient community will come out of this time of struggle if we work together, look out for our neighbors, and show patience.
“I feel for our patients that are eager to get vaccinated. We are using every single dose that we have, and we are doing it very swiftly and efficiently,” said Dr. Kendal Hamann of Kaiser Permanente. “We have not received enough dose to open up more tiers, but I’m optimistic. When there is more vaccine we will be ready.”
At the current time, our local healthcare providers are narrowing in on Sonoma County’s recommendations to vaccinate the most at-risk members of the population such as agricultural workers who live in communal housing. Dr. Jennifer Fish of Sutter explained that “Because of vaccine scarcity we have to look at everything we’re doing and make sure we’re taking an equitable approach. The County’s decision to follow the tiers of including essential workers and caregivers is where the equity comes in and that’s what we need to prioritize. They carry significantly more risk because they are keeping our society afloat and they have financial insecurity that makes it impossible to safely stay at home.”
“We are facing an opportunity for all of us to work together to ensure equitable and efficient distribution of the vaccine. Even though it’s scarce right now all of us will continue to vaccinate until everyone who wants to receive a vaccine does,” reinforced Sue Labbe of Alliance Medical Center. “This community to inspire me. We’re not new to crises around here and we’re facing a really big challenge. If we can do it in a way that ensures our neighbors work together we can do amazing things and change history,” she said.
Dr. Michael Valdovinos and Chelene Lopez both stressed the importance of community outreach to get in front of rumors and false information about the vaccine. Still, Dr. Valdovinos stressed that “as we move towards the solution of a vaccine that we remain mindful that the suffering continues for so many. We’re an incredibly resistant community but we’re not out of the woods yet.”
While the providers recommended that people stick within their healthcare systems and be patient until their tiers are called, they explained why the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) that the Healthcare Foundation supports, such as Alliance Medical Center, are an important safety net for those in the community who might otherwise slip through the cracks. “We’re catching our neighbors who don’t have the connections and making sure they don’t get left behind,” explained Sue Labbe. “We want to make sure we don’t marginalize those who have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic. We’re advocating for health equity every step of the way. All of us will do what we can to make sure that happens.”
You can access the full recording of the panel discussion and read more about the speakers here.