COVID vaccine in hands of caregiver

A combination of in-home vaccinations, a vaccine hotline and cultural outreach has helped California Medicare Advantage plan SCAN Health reduce vaccine disparities among Black and Hispanic seniors.

Sharon Jhawar, SCAN Health Plan

“I think they all were vital for what we as a nation need to do in our vaccination efforts,” SCAN Health Plan Chief Pharmacy Officer Sharon Jhawar told McKnight’s Home Care Daily.

SCAN began efforts to educate its members on the COVID-19 vaccine in February and launched in-home vaccinations in late April. The nonprofit Medicare Advantage plan reported that it has since then narrowed the vaccination gap between its Black members and white members from 17% to 6% and 11% to 4% between its Latinx members and white members.

Jhawar said access was a huge obstacle as the vaccine was being rolled out. Most California counties didn’t have in-home vaccination programs up and running, so SCAN Health started its own vaccination program for homebound seniors. But dispelling misinformation about the vaccine was an even bigger challenge.  SCAN turned to more than  100 local churches to help get the word out about the safety of the vaccine.

“They trust the information they get through their local circle… Our approach was let’s have an open conversation with what are your questions? What are your concerns? And, then address what has happened in history,” Jhawar said.

Minority communities have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 614,000 deaths from the COVID-19. American Indian and Alaska Natives lead the nation in coronavirus infections and deaths per 100,000 people, followed by Blacks and Hispanics. Those groups are also among the least likely to be vaccinated.

Jhawar said the vaccination rate among all of SCAN Health’s Medicare Advantage members is about 85%. That is in line with the national vaccination rate for people over the age of 65.

Jhawar said members are still calling into SCAN’s vaccination hotline seeking information about in-home shots, but those vaccinations are now being delivered by county health departments and various agencies. Jhawar thinks California Gov Gavin Newsome’s (D) vaccine mandate for healthcare providers adds an extra layer of assurance that some seniors may need before getting the vaccine.

“I think that it’s necessary given the delta variant and what we are seeing happening. We are only going to get through this if we progress,” Jhawar said.