Addressing Vaccine Confidence at Ochsner Health

Stadium board advertises walk up vaccination clinic during a game

Photo Credit: Ochsner Health

As supply of vaccine begins to exceed demand, Ochsner Health is making every possible effort to increase vaccine confidence and ensure doses are easily accessible to all residents. The New Orleans-based health system’s Innovation Health Podcast series provides in-depth discussions to address safety concerns among minority groups and specific patient populations.

In the podcast, “COVID Vaccines and the African-American Community,” Obinna Nnedu, M.D, an infectious disease specialist at Ochsner Medical Center, acknowledges the long-standing mistrust among the African-American community of the health care system and the federal government and its contribution to vaccine confidence. “One important thing is to understand the distrust, not to minimize it, not to downplay it … have a conversation with individuals,” Nnedu said. It’s important to respect people’s feelings and offer correct, accurate information to them about the vaccines, he added.

Hospitals and health systems should identify trusted people within the community to help promote the vaccine and be prepared to share information about the clinical trials and vaccine efficacy. “As an infectious disease doc, I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone getting a vaccine if it didn’t follow the proper steps,” said Nnedu, adding, “The data shows that these vaccines are safe.”

For targeted patient populations, a podcast addresses pregnancy, breastfeeding and infertility concerns. And Ochsner Health hosted a Facebook Live discussion for individuals in the special needs and disability community. “There is nothing inherent about anyone’s physical disability that makes them more or less likely to have problems with any of these vaccines,” said Maurice Sholas, M.D., a pediatric specialist in the section of Pediatric Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Ochsner Hospital for Children.

In addition to in-depth education efforts, Ochsner looks for ways to make vaccinations fun and accessible within the community. It held a Cinco de Mayo Festival de Vacunación, to bolster vaccinations within the Latino community, offering a free meal to shot recipients from a local food truck. Ochsner partnered with organizers of this year’s Louisiana Crawfish Festival, offering festival attendees their first dose of the vaccine.

Basketball fans can receive a shot at certain New Orleans Pelicans home games. And in keeping with its objective to encourage vaccination within the African-American community, Ochsner holds vaccination clinics at churches throughout the region.

During an interview with a local news station, Ochsner Health President and CEO Warner Thomas said the health system has plenty of vaccine doses, and about 60% of vaccine appointments are available. “We will see a rise in the virus come later in the year if we do not have enough people vaccinated,” Thomas said. “We encourage people to get vaccinated.”