Health News Roundup

How one city is working to get everyone vaccinated, and more in this week’s roundup

How inequity gets built into America’s vaccination system
Maryam Jameel and Caroline Chen, ProPublica, March 1
It’s a fact that simply being eligible for a vaccine in America doesn’t mean that you can instantly get one. Yet the ability to get to the front of the line isn’t the same for everyone. ProPublica has found that, whether intentionally or not, some vaccine programs have been designed with inherent barriers that disadvantage many people who are most at risk of dying from the disease, exacerbating inequities in access to health care.
Related: Data and Door Knocking: One city’s push for racial equity in vaccines, Dan Gorenstein and Ryan Levi, Tradeoffs, March 4

2 hard-hit cities, 2 diverging fates in vaccine rollout 
Philip Marcelo, Associated Press, Feb. 24
In Rhode Island, there’s a special effort to inoculate every resident of Central Falls, the community hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone 18 and older who lives or works in the city is eligible to be vaccinated and the city has seen a marked drop in cases. The city’s main vaccination site, held every Saturday at the high school gymnasium, is an almost entirely volunteer operation. City volunteers have been going door-to-door registering residents unwilling or unable to sign up for appointments online or by phone. They’ve also had to reassure residents living in the country illegally that they won’t be targeted by immigrant enforcement officials for seeking a shot. “If the pandemic is a fire, the vaccination is the water,” says Dr. Bernadette Boden-Albala, dean of the public health program at the University of California, Irvine. “You need to bring it to where the fire is burning the most, or you’ll never put it out.”

Racial barriers to Alzheimer’s care hurt patients and families
Jon Hamilton, NPR, March 2
Many members of racial and ethnic minority groups say they face extra barriers when seeking care for a friend or family member with Alzheimer’s disease. Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American caregivers were far more likely than whites to encounter discrimination, language barriers and providers who lack cultural competence, according to a report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer’s Association. “Among nonwhite caregivers, half say they’ve faced discrimination when navigating through the health care system,” says Maria Carrillo, the association’s chief science officer. Just 17% of white caregivers reported that sort of problem.

High school health workers? It works 
Claire Jarvis, Yes! Magazine, Feb. 19
Chronic diseases like hypertension are easy to diagnose, and often can be mitigated with simple lifestyle changes. The problem is that many people in underserved communities remain undiagnosed, and have difficulty taking the necessary steps to improve their health. How to fix this? One solution involves community health workers. These are people who work in their own communities to provide a link between the medical establishment and residents who might otherwise—for cultural, financial or logistical reasons—not have access to medical care. The Morehouse School of Medicine has a new approach: training high school students to serve as community health workers. One student helped diagnose hypertension in his mother.

To help farmworkers get COVID tests and vaccine, build trust and a safety net
Christine Herman and Dana Cronin, WILL/Illinois Public Media, March 4
There have been tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases and hundreds of deaths reported among U.S. farmworkers and meat plant workers. Yet agricultural workers struggle to access the most basic tool to fight the spread of the coronavirus: testing. Besides living far from testing sites, these workers often lack reliable information in their native language and have a general mistrust of the health care system. And missing work to get a test, or to isolate or quarantine, could be financially devastating. While the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines provides some hope, the virus is still spreading, and efforts to expand access to testing and build trust with farmworkers are still needed, experts say. These efforts will also be critical for ensuring that these hard-to-reach, vulnerable populations are vaccinated when the time comes.