The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unfortunate impact on childhood vaccinations. As early as April 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the administration of childhood immunizations had plummeted, and the Minnesota of Department of Health reported a 70 percent decline in the administration of the MMR vaccine. Shelter-in-place orders and the generalized fear and anxiety about coming into clinic disrupted preventive pediatric practice including well child care and vaccinations.
Given these barriers and the concern that declining childhood vaccination coverage would leave us vulnerable to outbreaks of measles or pertussis, Hennepin Healthcare (HHC) developed a mobile vaccination program. The Vaccine Mobile was created from a unique partnership between the HHC Community Paramedics and Department of Pediatrics. Every week, a team comprised of a pediatric provider, a community paramedic and a pediatric resident visits the homes of families who are unable to come into clinic.
Children who are behind or are due for essential vaccinations are identified by active, ongoing surveillance and through HHC provider referrals. During the home visit, the team performs a basic clinical assessment, administers vaccines, screens for various social determinants of health, provides children’s books to promote literacy and offers food bags, if needed. Infants receive a full well child exam including developmental screening and basic labs such as lead and hemoglobin. Over the last six months, the team has also administered influenza vaccines to siblings and adult household members.
Well received by patients and their families, the Vaccine Mobile has also been supported in neighborhoods. As meaningful community partnerships developed, the Vaccine Mobile expanded its work to conduct pop-up clinics in high-risk zip codes. The team works with trusted community healthcare workers and leaders to bring healthcare to safe spaces in the community, whether it be in parking lots, school gymnasiums, or church basements.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated health inequities and barriers to receiving optimal healthcare. The Vaccine Mobile demonstrates how a unique and innovative care model developed during the pandemic can reduce these barriers and promote childhood wellness in Minnesota, as well as across the nation.
About the Authors
Dawn Martin, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician at Hennepin Healthcare and serves as co-chair of MNAAP’s Immunization Work Group. Sheyanga Beecher, APRN CNP, MPH, is a pediatric nurse practicioner at Hennepin Healthcare. Amber Brown is the deputy chief of EMS and lead community paramedic at Hennepin Healthcare.