DaVita vaccine program expands vaccine equity, combats vaccine hesitancy

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — DaVita is providing COVID-19 vaccines to every patient at its dialysis centers in El Paso as part of the organization’s efforts to vaccinate 2,000 regional patients.

“It was just too easy not to do it,” said Carmen Armendariz, a dialysis patient at DaVita.

DaVita’s COVID-19 vaccination program works twofold by improving vaccine equity while also confronting vaccine hesitancy. Data shows that Black and Latino populations are behind when it comes to vaccination rates, and there are 60,000 people in Texas who rely on dialysis to replace kidney function. 

Black and Latino people make up half of all patients and providers at DaVita say efforting vaccine programs help bridge gaps in vaccine access for minority populations. 

“Our patients are some of the most diverse and vulnerable in the health care field. Blacks and Latinos have been trailing in COVID-19 vaccinations, in part because of access issues, as well as sometimes, just feelings of mistrust,” said Quinton Brown, area Biomed Manager at DaVita.

Patients receiving dialysis are often older and have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes.

Dialysis treatments are time-consuming and involve three four-hour visits per week where patients and providers develop trusting relationships that both patients and providers say is helping overcome vaccine hesitancy.

Armendariz said that she was initially apprehensive about getting the vaccine. 

“I was very apprehensive. I was in denial that I needed it and when DaVita just made it so easy for me to get it, that was kind of like, how do I put it? It was kind of like a sign,” she said.

DaVita says that patients can sign up for their COVID-19 vaccine when they go in for dialysis, eliminating the tedium of trying to secure an appointment, then wait in line. 

“We are starting to offer the vaccine to all of our dialysis patients — regardless of age — directly while they receive their treatment,” said Brown. 

Armendariz said she didn’t have any side effects following her first dose and that any initial reservations she had about getting vaccinated have been replaced by confidence that she’ll soon be able to participate in more social activities.

She is encouraging others who may be ambivalent about being vaccinated to take the shot.

“If more of us can get the vaccine, then more of us can go back to doing those things,” Armendariz said.

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