Denver Health Physicians Participate in Virtual White House Discussions About Pediatric Vaccinations
March 9, 2022
On Feb. 1, the White House along with Epic—the medical software company used by half of major health systems nationwide—hosted a virtual discussion to share successful strategies for improving vaccination rates among children ages 5-11. Denver Health’s successful pediatric COVID-19 vaccination efforts earned two of our doctors a seat at the digital table.
Denver Health’s Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Ann Boyer and Director of Pediatrics Dr. Steven Federico joined Dr. B. Cameron Webb, White House COVID-19 Team Senior Policy Advisor for COVID-19 Equity, along with participants from Epic and seven physicians representing the likes of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Mayo Clinic, Stanford Health Care, and more.
The group of chief medical information officers and infectious disease specialists shared strategies they have used to successfully increase pediatric COVID-19 vaccination rates as well as Epic digital tools used for the same goal. Their conversation led to a second webinar March 2, which was open to the public and attended by more than 1,000 people.
Boyer and Federico affirmed the efficacy of vaccinating children—and household adults—through Denver Health’s School-Based Health Centers in partnership with Denver Public Schools.
Boyer, who also is a pediatric hospitalist, shared that since vaccination efforts began, Denver Health has vaccinated more than 162,000 people, including 29,000 children. She noted that 33% of those children were outside of Denver Health’s existing pediatric patient population (already one-third of Denver’s children).
“We touched a lot of community members,” she said. “We wanted to vaccinate everyone. We encouraged children to bring their families, so we got lots of shots in arms.”
She said that 20% of pediatric vaccinations were administered in the School-Based Health Centers, and nearly 4,000 adults were also vaccinated at the schools. In addition to children ages 5 and older and adult members of their families, Denver Health vaccinated a third of Denver Public Schools educators and staff through mass vaccination clinics early on.
Denver Health operates 19 School-Based Health Centers for Denver Public Schools’ 90,000 children. DPS serves a diverse student population; 53% of students are Latinx, 25% are white, and 14% are Black, with 59% qualifying for free and reduced lunch—allowing Denver Health to serve the health needs of diverse, and often underserved and marginalized populations in line with its safety net mission.
In addition to its school-based outreach, Denver Health also utilized mobile clinics, open-access vaccine scheduling, access at primary care visits, and other strategies to boost community vaccination rates.
“School-Based Health Centers and the vaccine clinic staff have been instrumental in the success,” Boyer noted.
At the public webinar, Webb—the White House advisor—shared the perspective of President Biden’s administration on pediatric vaccination. He said that although younger individuals are less likely to experience severe hospitalization and death as a result of COVID-19, the illness has still moved into the top 10 causes of death for children in the U.S. With nationwide vaccination rates of only 30% among younger children ages 5-11, the encouragement of thoughtful, evidence-driven conversations between providers and patients (and their caregivers) is a helpful strategy to increase vaccinations in children.
“We have a tool, and we should deploy it wherever possible,” he said.
Moving forward, Epic and the White House plan to continue the conversation to engage more Epic member organizations in hearing recommendations to improve pediatric vaccination rates. Their goal is to provide recommendations to those health care systems that are not yet trying the strategies that others have found successful.