The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that “identifying and addressing possible barriers to completing the COVID-19 vaccination series can help ensure equitable coverage across communities and optimal health benefits for recipients.” Health plans can play a valuable role in ensuring that dually eligible members receive their second vaccination doses. Some strategies that health plans have employed are below, along with other suggestions.
- Leverage vaccination data to track members. A good first step used by many health plans is to track which members have received their first and second vaccination doses and on what dates, as well as which members have declined vaccination. One health plan is working with community health centers to retrieve members’ immunization data, create a registry to identify those in need of second vaccination doses, and reach out to those members.
- Schedule the second appointment on the date of the first appointment. Many health plans work with their members and actively schedule appointments for the second dose at the time of the first dose. This approach is also recommended by the CDC. Health plans that do not follow this strategy typically schedule the date of first and second doses simultaneously so that members know what date to return for their second dose before they arrive for the first dose.
- Coordinate the location of the second appointment and provide transportation options. Some dually eligible members may require additional coordination and transportation support to obtain their second vaccine dose. They saved the information of these members in their EHR, and a staff member ensured the participants would also receive their second dose at the same location as their first dose. Another health plan made arrangements for members who moved to a different location since the time of the first dose. For example, the health plan arranged for members who were in an assisted living facility at the time of their first dose to be transported back to the facility to receive their second dose.
- Send reminders. The CDC recommends sending second-dose reminders. Reminders can be via electronic (e.g., v-safe, VaxText, reminders through immunization information systems) or paper means (e.g., vaccination reminder card). Some health plans distribute written reminders about the second vaccine at the time of the first dose, while other health plans outreach to members via phone and email to schedule the second dose or remind members to get the second dose. One health plan has used texting, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), direct calls, and emails to communicate with members. Another health plan created a targeted outbound call campaign to provide information on the importance of the vaccine, information on vaccine sites, and reminders to get the second dose.
- Dispel concerns about the second vaccination dose. Some individuals may be concerned about receiving the second vaccination dose due to side effects caused by the first dose, or there may be fears of the second dose causing more severe side effects. Providing education on side effects may help increase members’ confidence in returning for a second dose. The CDC has published guidance on common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine and tips to relieve those side effects, such as applying a cool washcloth to the area of the arm where individuals experience discomfort, exercising the arm, and drinking plenty of fluids. The guidance explains that side effects after the second dose may be more intense, but these side effects are normal and should go away within a few days. The CDC describes when individuals should call the doctor due to side effects but also reassures that some individuals experience no side effects. Additionally, the CDC has published guidance describing whether individuals should and should not get the second vaccine dose based on the severity of any allergic reaction to the first dose. Other promising practices on combatting COVID-19 vaccine misinformation can be found here.