A Dialogue on Healthcare Equity and the “Road Back from COVID-19”

March 19, 2021

On March 11, The 19th, an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting on gender, politics and policy, hosted a virtual summit about healthcare equity in the context of the nation’s ongoing fight to defeat COVID-19. The event featured important and unique perspectives from the women directing the Biden-Harris administration’s pandemic response as well as other public health, health policy and healthcare industry leaders.

With Women’s History Month underway, HDA was proud to co-sponsor the event with AmerisourceBergen; Gina Clark, AmerisourceBergen’s Executive Vice President and Chief Communications & Administration Officer, kicked off the event with key remarks on her organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, while highlighting the critical role healthcare distributors are playing in the overall pandemic response.

Below are three key takeaways from the conversation.

1. The success of the vaccination campaign will depend on reaching all communities and all people, as quickly as possible.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair of the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, discussed the importance of a comprehensive immunization campaign that ensures all patients have access to the vaccine. “This is absolutely top of mind for all of us … vaccination campaigns only work when we reach everyone,” emphasized Dr. Nunez-Smith.

Similarly, Dr. Walensky echoed, “The real goal is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. And then there are certain conveniences that make one preferable potentially over another both in terms of how they get distributed and their ease of their distribution.”

2. Rely on and use local, trusted partners, such as pharmacies and community organizations, to help get shots into arms.

As one of the most trusted and accessible healthcare professionals, pharmacists are playing a critical role in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines. “We have federal pharmacy partners. We know that 90 percent of people live within 5 miles of a pharmacy. Can we get vaccines to pharmacies where people generally trust their pharmacy?” asked Dr. Walensky in discussion about critical strategies to reach communities across the U.S.

Reflecting on her own experiences as Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink highlighted the role of pharmacies in administering the vaccine. “Working with the VA, the DOD, the federal pharmacy partnerships — in those ways has helped get our vaccine out quickly and get a lot of people protected.”

3. Addressing vaccine hesitancy and misinformation remains a key component of the national vaccination campaign.

While the safe, secure and efficient distribution of vaccines remains a key part of the nationwide, vaccination campaign, Dr. Amanda P. Williams, an OB-GYN at Kaiser Permanente, noted the importance of developing unique strategies and approaches to combat vaccine hesitancy and misinformation. “This is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The more strategic we can be supporting our communities, the better we’re going to be in terms of getting America vaccinated so we can get out of this pandemic once and for all,“ said Dr. Williams.

As we work to turn the tide in the fight against COVID-19, these critical conversations underscore the importance of collaboration between stakeholders across the healthcare industry and public health fields to get all Americans vaccinated and protected.

The full video of the event is available here.

For additional HDA materials and pandemic response resources, visit our website.