Vax rates in local disadvantaged communities notably lower than general population
As part of a statewide Vaccination Response Program developed by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), CenCal Health is implementing a multi-strategy initiative to increase protection against COVID-19. CenCal Health is the Medi-Cal health plan for both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties with nearly 210,000 members, primarily children, families and seniors with low-income. The goal of the new initiative is to fully vaccinate members who are not vaccinated or received only one dose due to vaccine-hesitancy, lack of transportation or a disability that keeps them homebound. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently recommended that children 5 to 11 years receive the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine.
California’s DHCS reports that CenCal Health’s membership vaccination rate is 20 to 24 percentage points lower than the general populations of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. According to the CDC, COVID-19 and vaccine inequity are disproportionately found in disadvantaged populations where factors such as education, income, and racial and ethnic disparity pose a higher health risk.
“In an effort to increase our vaccination rate, we have discovered some additional challenges,” said Dr. Karen L. Hord, CenCal Health Deputy Chief Medical Officer. “The majority of our members who are unvaccinated are 5 to 17 years old. The COVID-19 vaccine is now approved for these ages, however parental permission is required. We are increasing vaccination opportunities for our young families, including weekend access through providers, and at pop-up clinics in convenient neighborhood locations with hours that work for working parents.”
CenCal Health also plans to improve vaccination rates by employing a technique they have not used before: text messaging unvaccinated members, directing them to vaccination locations that offer walk-in service. In addition, the community-based organization has produced a new website whyIshould.org and porquedeberia.org, and will mail postcards about pop-up vaccine clinics taking place near members’ homes. Other strategies include incentivizing members with $50 gift cards for receiving their first COVID-19 shots. Primary care providers in the CenCal Health network who administer these first shots also are rewarded.
CenCal Health was one of the state’s first managed care plans to receive approval for its localized COVID-19 Vaccination Response Plan; approval was given by DHCS within 48 hours of plan submission. This vaccination rate improvement roll-out began locally on October 15 and will continue until March 2022.
“With a safe, educational and responsive campaign, CenCal Health joins healthcare organizations across the state in an effort to inform Medi-Cal members about the availability and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination,” said CenCal Health CEO Marina Owen.
About CenCal Health
CenCal Health is a community-accountable health plan that partners with over 1,500 local physicians, hospitals and other providers in delivering patient care to close to 210,000 members – about one in four residents of Santa Barbara County and one in five residents of San Luis Obispo County. A public agency, the health plan contributes approximately $50 million a month into the local economy, primarily through payments to healthcare providers who serve its membership. Established in 1983, it is the oldest managed care Medicaid plan of its kind in the nation. View its annual Community Report at cencal2020.org
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