Denise Schentrup, APRN, DNP, FAANP, associate dean for clinical affairs and practice director of Archer Family Health Care, or AFHC, said the practice answered a call to rural health clinics from the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to devise new ways to increase vaccination rates in their communities. AFHC joins a group of nearly 2,000 rural health centers selected to receive additional funding for protecting underserved populations against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
“We want to put a ‘presence’ for vaccines out there,” Schentrup said.
AFHC, which also serves other small, nearby communities, rolled out its planned vaccine outreach program earlier in the fall.
Schentrup said AFHC is using its platform in rural North Central Florida to host additional vaccine clinics and events with local churches to promote and address concerns about several different kinds of vaccines, including the COVID-19, flu and pneumonia vaccines. Individuals do not need to be patients to receive COVID-19 or flu vaccines at the practice.
Focusing on adult patients and community residents with targeted initiatives, Schentrup believes she and the team at AFHC will decrease the region’s general vaccine hesitancy. Flyers, text messages and phone calls reminding patients about vaccine availability will play a large role in AFHC’s vaccine promotions.
AFHC is currently working with Pfizer toward participation in its Vaccine Adherence for Adults Program. Designed to remind patients about recommended vaccinations with postcards or digital messages, the partnership will help the practice more easily encourage return visits and retain patients.
To help ensure an accurate count of the practice’s vaccine stock, AFHC is also working to enroll in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 vaccine provider database. Through participation, the practice would gain a record of patients who specifically choose to be vaccinated for COVID-19 elsewhere, cutting down on first-dose shots that are given to individuals who already began the vaccine series.
In late 2022, at the end of the grant period, HRSA will evaluate if AFHC’s efforts successfully resulted in increased vaccination rates. According to Schentrup, the AFHC team has already given 15% more injections in just a three-month period.
“Many people are hesitant about vaccines, period,” Schentrup said. “Whether it’s due to fear or a lack of knowledge about them being available, we’re ‘demystifying’ them by providing the necessary information to help keep our community healthy.”