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Trusted Messengers: Developing and Evaluating Materials to Support Physicians in Promoting COVID-19 Vaccination

HSS Investigators: Kimberly Fisher, Kathleen Mazor, Sonal Singh
Funding Agency: National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
Status: Ongoing

Project Overview: The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and associated coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have been devastating. In the United States (US), more than 25 million people have been infected, resulting in more than 700,000 deaths. The approval of multiple effective COVID-19 vaccines has raised hope that a return to “normal” life may be at hand. However, realizing the benefits of a vaccine requires widespread acceptance and vaccine uptake. Recent estimates suggest that as many as 90% of the population may need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Our work and that of others indicate a significant proportion of the US population are reluctant to be vaccinated. Overlap between factors associated with COVID-19 disease and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, including being of Black or Latino race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic disadvantage, threaten to severely exacerbate existing health disparities. The overall goal of this proposal is to refine and test strategies to overcome COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, particularly among vulnerable populations, through a community-engaged approach. Our research hypothesis is that trusted messengers, such as primary care providers (PCPs) and community organizations, are essential to increasing uptake of the COVID-19 vaccine, particularly for the most hesitant groups. Building on strong community partnerships, we will refine, implement, and evaluate a multi-faceted intervention to support PCP outreach, and PCP and community organization dissemination of information to promote COVID-19 vaccination among vulnerable patients in and near Worcester, MA. The intervention will include: (1) a library of videos addressing common vaccine concerns to be disseminated by PCPs and local community organizations; (2) tools to implement PCP outreach and COVID-19 vaccine recommendation; and (3) educational materials for PCPs to support their conversations with patients about the COVID-19 vaccine. We will accomplish this via the following specific aims: 1) To refine and adapt tools to support effective PCP recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination and information dissemination by PCPs and community organizations to vulnerable patients; 2) To implement and assess the impact of the intervention on COVID-19 vaccine uptake; 3) To evaluate the intervention according to the RE-AIM framework.

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