CVS Health plans to reach out to Americans in underserved communities to help them schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments Signs that whites are more likely to receive the free vaccine than black Americans.
The drugstore chain announced on Friday that it would call, email, and text people who live in areas classified as socially vulnerable by the federal government to provide assistance and education on the vaccination process.
The move also comes as there are widespread reports that Americans have difficulty navigating various planning systems, website crashes, and a sluggish introduction of the two previously approved vaccines.
CVS also said it will hold vaccination clinics in the most vulnerable communities where it operates and send vaccination caravans to the neighborhood to make it easier for people to get their shots.
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The study published in 2020 concluded that About 34% of COVID-19 deaths over the period studied were black, despite the fact that they make up only 12% of the American population.
According to CVS internal data, 35% of black Americans do not plan on getting vaccinated when they can for the first time.
With nearly 10,000 locations, including nearly half in communities rated “High or Very High” in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index, CVS is expected to play an important role in the nationwide adoption of COVID- 19 vaccines play. The company has stated that its 90,000 clinicians can manage 25 million per month. Almost 8 in 10 Americans live within five miles of a CVS.
“Given that color communities are increasingly reluctant, it was very important for us to address this through a multi-faceted strategy of vaccine education, access and equity,” said Sree Chaguturu, CVS chief medical officer, in an interview with USA TODAY .
Last week, CVS began scheduling appointments for employees in 350 stores in 11 states: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. The retailer will eventually expand access to all of its stores, but is currently restricted to states where the federal government makes vaccines available for administration, as are other pharmacy chains currently restricted as well.
Chaguturu declined to say how many people CVS would like to reach or how many clinics it would like to run outside of its businesses.
Chaguturu said the CVS call center staff will help people make appointments over the phone or show them around town digital planning system.
CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger and many other large retailers with pharmacies started giving COVID-19 vaccines a week ago after receiving their first retail vaccines.
In addition to its own communication efforts to reach out to people in underserved communities, CVS also coordinates outreach work with community leaders and nonprofits, including religious groups. Some clinics are conducted in YMCA facilities.
“We are proud to work with CVS Health to ensure that everyone has equal access to accurate information about the vaccines and the vaccines themselves, especially color communities that are disproportionately affected by the health and economic impact of the virus,” said YMCA by US CEO Kevin Washington in a statement.
According to CVS, more than 4 in 10 pharmacists and more than half of pharmacy technicians are black people.
But health experts say that black Americans and other people of color are most susceptible to COVID-19 due to a number of factors, including the fact that they are more likely to have jobs that require them to interact with others.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.