Webinar Highlights Critical Role for CBOs in COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy

More than 1,300 participants tuned in to a CDC Foundation webinar December 16 to learn about the critical role community-based organizations (CBOs) can and will play in the rollout of the new COVID-19 vaccines—especially when it comes to building trust and overcoming vaccine hesitancy at the grassroots level. 

“We know that health care workers and community organizations are on the front lines, where the rubber meets the road,” said Anne Schuchat, MD, principal deputy director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a conversation as part of the webinar with CDC Foundation president and CEO Judy Monroe, MD. “You know the people you serve. You’re part of those communities and you understand the issues. You can potentially be an ambassador and really start a dialogue.” 

She stressed there are many reasons to feel confident in the vaccines now authorized for emergency use by the FDA.

  • CDC and other groups continue to closely monitor vaccine development, distribution, administration and follow-up.
  • Things are going well with initial vaccinations with health care workers, giving them first-hand experience they can share as the rollout expands.
  • The vaccine received a thorough review. Manufacturing began concurrently with large clinical trials, allowing for an immediate rollout once carefully reviewed data bore out the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

It’s important to instill trust in the vaccines, she said, since they represent the beginning of the end of the pandemic. “Trust is so essential in any public health effort and vaccination really calls on all of us to trust the system, trust each other.” 

The webinar was the second in a series offered by the CDC Foundation as part of a broader effort to help CBOs build capacity, liaise with local health departments and respond to urgent needs amid the pandemic. 

In addition to Dr. Schuchat, presenters included Eric Moore, policy and research manager for The Center for African American Health in Denver, and Virginia Caine, MD, director of the Marion County Public Health Department in Indiana. They shared their perspectives as community leaders and offered insight and guidance on anticipated barriers to vaccination. Both underscored the need for accurate information, transparency, equitable distribution and access.

“There’s a lot of data to support that we already had issues dealing with inequities [in health care], and COVID just made it worse,” Moore said. “We want to make sure we clear the haze around what’s going on and make sure folks have everything they need to be informed and make an educated decision around COVID-19 practices and vaccine confidence.”

Dr. Caine echoed that sentiment and called on community leaders to leverage clinical expertise and longstanding partnerships to get the message out. “We need to facilitate comprehensive community and patient outreach activities that focus on COVID-19 prevention, vaccination and treatment. We need to identify and recognize expanded use of neighborhood trusted communicators.” 

The CDC Foundation’s CBO Resource page includes links to information and toolkits from CDC and other trusted sources to help with vaccine messaging, in various languages. 

The webinar ended with a collective call to action to mobilize resources, connect and collaborate, and continue to practice safety measures which include getting a flu shot. Attendees were also reminded to effectively communicate to strengthen vaccine confidence with custom messaging to reach unique and underserved populations.

Vaccines alone don’t save lives, Dr. Monroe stressed. Vaccinations do.
 



Hannah Buchdahl is a COVID-19 Corps communications officer for the CDC Foundation.