Pediatric vaccine rollout highlights Benton County’s focus on health equity

Benton County Health Department’s director/administrator April Holland, MPH, CIC, recently shared good news about the county’s efforts to close vaccine equity gaps:

  • Hispanic and Latino, Latina, or Latinx children in Benton County were more than twice as likely to be vaccinated by the county health department compared to white children.
  • The data for the other race and ethnicity groups is smaller but shows the same trend.
  • 50.4% of Benton County 5- to 11-year-olds have received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and 41% have completed the series.

What’s behind this success? As April shared, this indicates “the extremely important role” that school-based clinics have in reaching diverse populations.

“From the early days of vaccinations, we sought to build an infrastructure of COVID vaccinations in provider offices and pharmacies,” April explained, “as these are the traditional places that vaccinations occur. When we prepared for the 5-11 age group, our incredible immunizations coordinator worked with pediatrics and family practice offices to get most providers enrolled. Still, we knew that when the first vaccines arrived, the demand would be high and the supply would be temporarily limited.”

County officials knew that families with access to primary care providers would be able to get vaccine appointments. But there was also concern that these same families would attend drop-in clinics out of convenience, thereby limiting access for those without the same resources.

The county decided to set up an appointment-based, equity-focused system to ensure its drop-in clinics served the groups most at need. “We then shared our clinic appointment calendar with school-based health centers, our Federally Qualified Health Center, Community-Based Organizations and community partners serving disadvantaged groups,” April explained. “These partners could fill appointments to ensure access for their underserved patients and clients.”

At the same time, the county ran newspaper ads and social media posts urging people to check with their provider or pharmacy about getting vaccinated. Best of all, they made sure all vaccine appointments were filled. “We had direct scheduling through our call center as needed,” April said. “Any

You can learn more about Benton County’s vaccine equity efforts and successes in its Vaccine Equity Plan and Sept. 2021 update.

Learn more about your county’s vaccine equity plan

Vaccine equity plans close equity gaps in their community by:

  • Engaging local community-based organizations and other partners to increase meaningful, culturally responsive and low-barrier access to vaccines.
  • Serving the county’s agricultural workers.
  • Addressing vaccine confidence in the community.
  • Using culturally appropriate avenues (such as radio, information fairs, trusted community leaders) to dispel misinformation in communities experiencing racial and ethnic vaccine inequities.
  • Ensuring accessible language at vaccine events.
  • Removing or lowering transportation barriers to accessing vaccines.
  • Ensuring meaningful, low-barrier vaccine access for youth, especially those from Black, Indigenous, Tribal and other communities experiencing health inequities.
  • Engaging with community leaders from the Black, Indigenous, Tribal, and other communities of color to regularly report and review progress on their vaccine equity plans.