Coinciding with a celebration of 20 years of excellence, Archer Family Health Care was awarded a one-year, $49,529 grant to support vaccination outreach in rural areas.
Denise Schentrup, APRN, DNP, FAANP, clinical associate professor, associate dean for clinical affairs and clinical director of Archer Family Health Care, or AFHC, said the practice answered a call to rural health clinics from the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to devise new ways to increase vaccination rates in their communities. AFHC joins a group of nearly 2,000 rural health centers selected to receive additional funding for protecting underserved populations against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
“We want to put a ‘presence’ for vaccines out there,” Schentrup said.
AFHC, which also serves other small, the nearby communities, rolled out its planned vaccine outreach program earlier in the fall. Schentrup said Archer will be able to use its platform in rural North Central Florida to host additional vaccine clinics and events with local churches to promote and address concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals do not need to be patients to receive COVID-19 or flu vaccines at the clinic.
Flyers, text messages and phone calls reminding patients about vaccine availability will play a large role in AFHC’s vaccine promotion. To keep a record of patients who choose to be vaccinated elsewhere, AFHC will enroll in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 vaccine provider database. Keeping an accurate shot record will cut down on vaccines that are given to an individual who already has immunity and help ensure an accurate count of the clinic’s vaccine stock.
Focusing on adult patients and community residents, Schentrup believes she and the team at AFHC will decrease the region’s general vaccine hesitancy and reach individuals who are financially unable to get vaccinated. To make this a reality, practice providers and staff have engaged with drug companies to provide vaccines to high-risk patients through a patient assistance program free of charge.
AFHC is also currently in discussion to participate in Pfizer’s Vaccine Adherence for Adults Program. Designed to remind patients about recommended vaccinations with postcards or digital messages, the partnership will help the clinic more easily encourage return visits and retain patients.
In late 2022, at the end of the grant period, HRSA will evaluate if AFHC ‘s efforts successfully resulted in increased vaccination rates. According to Schentrup, the AFHC team has already given 15% more injections in just a three-month period.
“Many people are hesitant about vaccines, period,” Schentrup said. “Whether it’s due to fear or a lack of knowledge about them being available, we’re ‘demystifying’ them by providing the necessary information to help keep our community healthy.”