As Kansas prepares to move into Phase 3 and 4 of the state’s guidelines for COVID vaccination, two trusted community health centers are teaming up to make sure communities of color in Wichita have equal access to shots.
GraceMed and HealthCore have found common cause in the effort to reach out to minority and low-income neighborhoods they have historically served, with administering vaccines and providing trusted information about the vaccines.
“Both of our organizations have known for some time that there would be a reluctance to accept the vaccine once it was available,” said GraceMed CEO, Venus Lee. “Our initial focus was on testing, but now that the vaccine is available, it’s time to get the word out that it’s available, safe and effective.”
GraceMed began vaccinating by appointment starting March 10, working under state guidelines as part of a group of 250 community health centers nationwide who were authorized by the federal government as vaccination sites.
“We worked together with HealthCore to ensure they were able to provide vaccinations as well,” Lee noted. “But it wasn’t very long at all before they also received authorization, significantly increasing access to underserved populations in the area,” said Lee.
The two Federally Qualified Health Centers are planning to continue sharing resources to get shots in arms at various pop-up locations and shared events.
“It’s really an all hands on deck situation as we confront this virus together,” said Teresa Lovelady, President and CEO of HealthCore. “Venus and I are fortunate to be a part of two organizations that are laser focused on our missions to serve the underserved, and that gives everyone involved a common bond in a crisis like this.”
Phases 3 and 4 of the state’s guidelines make younger populations who have a variety of existing medical conditions eligible for vaccination. Also included are several categories of workers in critical industries and government, which makes about 600,000 Kansans now eligible to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Julie Elder, GraceMed Chief Medical Officer said, “after this, there’s only one phase to go and that’s pretty much everyone else. So, we’re moving ahead at a good pace, and we need to because we want to get to herd immunity as quickly as possible.”
The priority now for GraceMed and HealthCore is to wage a public information campaign to help the public make a well-informed decision to get the shot.
“We’re both moving forward with multimedia messages that not only say we’re here and ready to vaccinate, but that you can trust us when we say this shot is saving lives,” Lee explained. “These are two organizations that have built strong relationships of trust with minority populations, so we’re hopeful that will make a difference as we go out and recruit arms to inoculate.”
GraceMed continues to operate its drive-through testing at its Administration Center, 1150 N. Broadway with appointments on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1:00 pm to 3 pm.
Vaccination appointments are available throughout the week at the same facility. GraceMed also provides vaccinations at its Topeka and McPherson clinics. More information is available by calling (316) 866-2000 or visiting www.gracemed.org/covid-crisis.