Millions of Americans have received a COVID-19 vaccine to date, but there are millions more to go. The effort is massive, touching communities across the country and requiring coordination among government, business and nonprofit partners.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies are in a strong position to help with the COVID-19 vaccine effort. With members in every ZIP code, BCBS health plans have the knowledge to assess and meet local needs. Here’s how we’re contributing.
Providing healthcare workers to administer vaccine doses
Hundreds of clinical staff, including nurses and doctors, are already volunteering or may deploy to administer vaccines. They're coming from health plans across the country, including Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona.
Helping to stand up mass vaccination sites
Vaccinations are being administered at a variety of sites around the country, from pharmacies to parking lots to doctors' offices. BCBS companies are working with state and local officials to identify and assist at more sites, including offering their own office space. In Pittsburgh, Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is partnering with the Pirates to use PNC Park as a large vaccine distribution site. The state of Arizona tapped Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBS AZ) to help manage volunteers, most of them BCBS AZ employees and their families, at a mass vaccination site at State Farm Stadium. The site, run by the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, is currently vaccinating thousands of patients, 24 hours a day.
Supporting underserved communities
Underserved communities, especially those including Blacks, Native Americans and Latinos, are suffering at disproportionate rates from COVID-19. In fact, Native Americans are dying at higher rates than any other group in the nation. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation has provided funding to the Native American Community Clinic, which offers culturally appropriate care and is currently administering COVID-19 vaccines to Native American elders. The clinic's efforts are aimed at addressing distrust of vaccines and the medical community, "rooted in our nation’s long history of medical experimentation, systemic racism, broken treaties and unequal access to quality health care" for Native Americans, according to this story from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Premera Blue Cross has joined community and philanthropy leaders across Washington state to launch a new initiative to ensure equitable COVID-19 vaccine access for more communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. And to help target vaccination efforts in some of the most affected communities in the state, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has invested $1 million in the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. The centers' patients are often people of color and those living below the poverty line.
Tackling the logistics of vaccine distribution and administration
One of the largest vaccine roll out efforts in the country is being mounted by Blue Shield of California, which has been tapped by the state to accelerate, streamline and ensure the fairness of the delivery of vaccines. And across the country, a vaccination effort as large as this is requiring more targeted coordination among government agencies, private companies and nonprofits. People need to know where to get a vaccine. They might need transportation. They may need assistance scheduling an appointment. BCBS companies are handling some of these logistics as well. For example, most Anthem BlueCross BlueShield (Anthem BCBS) Medicare and Medicaid members have access to non-emergency medical transportation through their plan benefits, which may include a ride to a vaccination site. Anthem BCBS members with commercial health plan benefits, such as those received through an employer, and the community as a whole, may qualify for free transportation through Anthem BCBS's partnership with the ride sharing company Lyft.
Using data to pinpoint areas of need
Vaccines are supposed to go to those with the greatest need first. Ensuring those people know they’re eligible and connecting them to a vaccination appointment is critical. Some BCBS companies are helping to identify members in that category and reaching out directly to encourage them to get vaccinated. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is combining multiple data points to help identify communities across the state that are at high risk for vaccine hesitancy in order to target outreach to these communities. The health plan has also supported efforts to educate Tennesseans about the flu vaccine.
Educating on vaccine safety and effectiveness
BCBS company websites and customer service centers are providing facts about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. They're serving as trusted sources of information at a time when disinformation about the vaccines could make some less confident about getting the shots. Some BCBS companies are running campaigns on television, social media and radio to encourage vaccination and counter disinformation. Capital BlueCross is keeping members up to date on the vaccine on its website. It's also teaming up with a professional basketball player who will promote the fact that when he gets the COVID-19 vaccine, he's taking the “Shot of His Life” for himself, his family and his community, and he'll be asking everyone to do the same. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawaii, in partnership with the Hawaii COVID Collaborative, a group of private businesses and nonprofits, has helped launch a website that includes education about COVID-19 and the vaccines. Other BCBS companies are working with local partners to share information about safety and effectiveness in underserved communities. Independence Blue Cross is continuing its work with the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to support education and outreach in communities of color.
Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Capital BlueCross, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawaii, Independence Blue Cross, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Shield of California, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Premera Blue Cross are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. All company names and brands are the property of their respective owners, used for identification purposes only, and are in no way associated or affiliated with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Use of these names and brands does not imply endorsement.