Expert Q&A: how local clinics are looking to improve COVID-19 vaccine outcomes

(Legacy Community Health/Community Impact Newspaper)
(Legacy Community Health/Community Impact Newspaper)

(Legacy Community Health/Community Impact Newspaper)

Nearly 12.8 million Texans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to June 1 data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Of that number, 3.9 million Hispanics—nearly 31% of the total that have received one dose—have been vaccinated, with whites at 37%, and Black and Asian populations at 7.5% and 6.6%, respectively.

However, when compared to the state’s estimated 2019 population of nearly 29 million, these vaccination rates lag behind. According to data from the United States Census Bureau, whites represent 41% of the state population, with Hispanics at 39.7%, and Black and Asian populations at 12.9% and 5.2%, respectively.

Community Impact Newspaper spoke with Dr. Amelia Averyt, associate medical director of clinical family practice at Legacy Community Health, on the conversations she and other doctors are having with patients who may be hesitant to take a vaccine.

The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the current situation regarding inoculations in the clinic?


In my clinic there is a mix. We’ve had trouble filling our vaccine clinic openings. When I’m asking patients directly about it, a lot of them have already been vaccinated. Granted, that’s a select pool if they’re coming to the doctor and getting routine health care.

Others are hesitant. A lot of the concerns I’m hearing, whether it’s from patients or patient families, is about the safety of the vaccines. I don’t think the news about the [Johnson & Johnson] vaccine helped that situation much. People were a little bit concerned with how quickly they were developed and rolled out.

People are also scared of the side effects, especially with information they receive shared via social media, as it tends to be very anecdotal. I’ve also heard concerns about fertility, menstruation, and all sorts of things. And then concerns of feeling sick after the vaccine.

I’ve also had nonchalant patients who say, “If I’m going to get it, I’m going to get it. Everybody is going to get it.” They are more resigned to the fact that this got out of our hands and “why should we think that we can control it?”

How do you tackle those challenges?

It’s tough to create messaging that addresses all of those things. One of the approaches I’ve found most effective is through family members having discussions among themselves or reaching out to loved ones or neighbors. So it’s important to empower patients to have the right information on hand and go through that conversation with them so that they can have a discussion with their loved ones.

When I’ve had successful discussions with vaccine-hesitant patients, it’s been because I’ve been upfront and describing how sick I got, because I got pretty dang sick with my second dose. Having them know that I was okay and survived really helped. It also helps to remind them about the new [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines, that there’s more of a benefit to getting vaccinated and taking steps to getting back to normal activities.

How do you start to address underserved communities that might not have as much access to a nearby clinic?

We have an ongoing dedication to getting vaccines into pockets of Houston that otherwise may not see the vaccine. We’ve also got a lot of community partnerships through local government and national government as well.

In Houston, on the east side we’ve partnered with Sylvia Garcia to do a few vaccine clinics in local churches. We’re taking vaccines out of the clinic to where people actually are and can regularly access services, which is one of the only real ways to really expand distribution.

What are some challenges these groups face?

It starts out with figuring out where you can get a vaccine and early on if you even qualified was difficult to navigate.

For a lot of my more multigenerational families, a lot of kids were tasked with figuring all that out for the parents. It also goes on to transportation: How are you going to get to the site? Also, who are you going to follow up with if you have symptoms afterwards, if you’re not an established patient with Legacy?

Not only are there those barriers, but there is also a lack of established trust with the healthcare system before the pandemic started. If you aren’t getting regular healthcare you probably aren’t used to getting messages about vaccines, comfortable with getting vaccines, and being told what to do with your health.
By Hunter Marrow
Hunter Marrow came to Community Impact Newspaper in January 2020. Before that, Hunter covered local news in Ontario, OR for three years, covering municipal issues, crime, and education across Malheur County and across the border into Idaho.

<

MOST RECENT

The Texas Central rail connection from Dallas to Houston will feature a bullet train similar to this one. (Courtesy Texas Central Partners/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas Supreme Court declines to review high-speed rail case, freeing company up to use eminent domain

Texas Central, the company looking to build a 236-mile high-speed rail line connecting Houston and Dallas, has been given a big win in an ongoing legal battle over whether the company is legally recognized as a "railroad company" under state law.

There will be various events across the Houston area celebrating the Fourth of July, including League City's Fireworks Extravaganza. (Courtesy of League City)
12 Fourth of July weekend events, celebrations to attend in the Greater Houston area

Here are 12 Fourth of July weekend events throughout the Houston region.

When he is not on the UHCL campus, Delgado is employed part-time as a legal assistant at Travis Bryan Law Group and is also a firefighter with the Pasadena Volunteer Fire Department. (Courtesy University of Houston-Clear Lake)
University of Houston system appoints first-ever University of Houston-Clear Lake Hawk as student regent

Derek Delgado, who is pursuing an undergraduate degree in legal studies at UHCL, will work directly with other student governments throughout the university system and help advocate for student needs.

(Rendering courtesy Land Rover of Clear Lake)
IMPACTS ROUNDUP: Land Rover of Clear Lake coming soon and more

Here is a roundup of local business news from Clear Lake and League City.

Alvin Community College President Christal Albrecht (left) and University of Houston-Clear Lake President Ira Blake signed an articulation agreement expansion June 10 that will allow ACC associate degree students to co-enroll in UHCL’s Bachelor of Science in nursing program. (Courtesy University of Houston-Clear Lake)
Alvin Community College, University of Houston-Clear Lake expand nursing program partnership

The agreement between the colleges will streamline the transition process between ACC’s associate degree program for nursing and UHCL’s RN-to-BSN program.

ribbon cutting
Nearly $400M project to boost Houston-area water supply by up to 500M gallons a day

The project has been in development for over 50 years and broke ground in 2017.

Following Hurricane Harvey, debris lined the streets in many parts of Harris County. (Danica Lloyd/Community Impact Newspaper)
After Department of Housing and Urban Development denies request, Texas General Land Office drafting plan to subaward Harris County $750M for flood mitigation

The Texas General Land Office now plans to subaward Harris County flood mitigation funding after the county was left out of recent Hurricane Harvey relief funds.

(Rendering courtesy Intuitive Machines)
Intuitive Machines opening Lunar Operations Center at Houston Spaceport

After landing a module on the moon in the first quarter of 2022, Intuitive Machines plans to make an annual effort to send hardware to the lunar surface, and it will do its work from the Houston Spaceport.

Scott and her husband Dan Jewett gave $30 million to the college, which is the largest private gift in San Jac’s history. (Courtesy Fotolia)
San Jacinto College receives largest private gift in college history from MacKenzie Scott

The former wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos donated $2.7 billion to nearly 300 high-impact organizations “in categories and communities that have been historically underfunded and overlooked,” she announced June 15.

Clear Creek ISD students will be able to freely collaborate and play during the 2021-22 school year, district leaders said. (Courtesy Pexels)
Clear Creek ISD makes strides toward pre-pandemic operations for 2021-22

Here is what CCISD community members need to know about what working and learning will look like on campuses this fall, including updated guidance on quarantines, contact tracing and other COVID-19 response protocols.