Addressing equity in accessing the COVID-19 vaccine

January 26, 2021

This written testimony was sent to the King County Council in response to Motion 2021-0046 regarding equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution and access.

Dear King County Council Members,

I write in support of Proposed motion 2021-0046 which would address equity in accessing the COVID-19 vaccine during these initial stages of distribution and have some suggestions for improvement. I am the Executive Director of Neighborhood House, a human services organization serving over 2500 limited English speaking, low income seniors and people living with disabilities in their own homes in King County with health and community resource navigation.

Our clients are the highest risk and least likely to have access to vaccines through traditional mechanisms due to digital and language barriers. An effective way to connect these high risk citizens with the vaccine would be to partner with community based organizations that have partnerships with the Area Agency on Aging to support seniors and disabled people in signing up for the vaccine. Providers like Neighborhood House provide translation and a trusted partner to help those living with dementia, disabilities, or other chronic conditions understand the need to become vaccinated, assist with the consent process, and coordinate vaccination appointments (including completing the Phasefinder tool). I am requesting that community partners that work with at-risk communities be added to the Executive’s plan and until the vaccine is more widely available, be provided direct and exclusive sign up access so low-income, at-risk adults can be prioritized for vaccinations.

Other challenges

Transportation is urgently needed to ensure vulnerable individuals have access to the vaccination sites. I commend the proposal sponsors for including all King County resources including Metro (and their contractors like Hopelink) in the equitable dissemination of the vaccine.

In-home vaccination is urgently needed for those individuals with dementia, bed-bound, or otherwise home bound. I commend the proposal sponsors for addressing this urgent issue. Community partners, like Neighborhood House should be included in the plan for in-home vaccinations. We have relationships with these individuals and could easily coordinate, translate, and support in-home vaccination process.

Mass vaccination sites should ensure there is a language line to support limited English speaking community members can consent to the vaccine in their own language.

Communications materials should be developed to address vaccine resistance and the causes of this resistance. These messages need to be widely shared and tailored to different communities.

The tools and processes identified above would greatly aid us in helping to eliminate the threat of COVID-19 in King County. We are on the front lines of helping those targeted by this proposal access the vaccine. Thank you for taking a proactive step to address the inequity we already see.

Sincerely,

Janice Deguchi (she/her/hers)
Executive Director