Increasing Vaccination Rates in Oregon: Novel Approaches to Combating Seasonal Influenza
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This report provides the reasoning behind, and guidance on, implementing three interventions aimed at increasing vaccination rates against seasonal influenza, with special considerations taken to account for additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The research draws attention to the importance of vaccines in preventing or decreasing the severity of influenza infections to protect our health and healthcare systems. However, research shows that there are many obstacles that prevent people from getting vaccinated, which include lack of established care providers; lack of health insurance; fear of vaccinations due to mistrust of the government and historical trauma; discriminatory experiences with healthcare providers; and not being able to physically get to a vaccination site, whether that is due to lack of transportation or being residence-bound. The interventions implemented to address these barriers include utilizing emergency medical service providers as vaccine administrators, establishing drive-through influenza vaccination clinics, and creating a toolkit of customizable communication materials for public health authorities. The steps that were taken to implement these programs are outlined and include supporting documents that the Oregon Immunization Program used. Strengths and challenges that have been gathered throughout implementation and operation processes are reported to help guide future adoption of these programs. These interventions were looked at through the lens of the socioecological model, with how different factors of a person’s life affect their ability or decision to get vaccinated. Although a comprehensive evaluation of these interventions is not attainable due to their ongoing nature and lack of reportable data received thus far, these interventions have the potential to increase influenza vaccination rates, especially among populations that historically have poorer health outcomes and are more vulnerable to influenza and COVID-19 infections. Future considerations for improving these interventions and their impact include creating better evaluation methods, so that they can be adapted to better support not only the current COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning, but also offer better data for seasonal influenza seasons and novel pandemics in the future. Key recommendations for these interventions include direct follow up with health agencies and stakeholders to get feedback. Communication between these agencies is critical throughout all steps, including during and after the program is in place, to ensure changes are being made as necessary to keep the interventions as efficient and impactful as possible. These strong relationships between health agencies and stakeholders should be cultivated as early as possible, and detailed needs assessments of the target communities should be implemented for maximum impact.