DENVER – March 31, 2021 – Colorado Access is working to support participating providers in their efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines fairly in Colorado, ensuring they are accessible to marginalized and underserved populations while also following guidelines issued by the state. The nonprofit organization sees disparities within its own member data when it comes to vaccinations, with those aged 16+ identifying as white (37.6%) at a 6.8% vaccination rate compared to people of color (52.5%) at 5.8%. There are also higher rates of POC-identifying members reporting testing positive for COVID-19 (3.3%) compared to white members (2.6%).
Despite numerous challenges and barriers encountered, providers continue to stress the ethical importance of equitable distribution in the community, and increase efforts to accomplish this. Dr. PJ Parmar, a provider in the Colorado Access network, is founder of Ardas Family Medicine and The Mango House, which serve resettled refugees in the Denver area. He has tried to provide vaccines to residents of specific zip codes as a way to focus on the underserved. While some of his strategies have met resistance, he is still making a valiant attempt.
“We are open to anyone for waitlist appointments, but residents of 80010 —the poorest zip code in the metro area— can come in with no appointment,” Dr. Parmar said. “We are targeting this population because they are disproportionately affected by any disease, especially coronavirus.”
Two other network providers, Dr. Alok Sarwal of Medicine Clinic for Health Equity / Colorado Alliance for Health Equity and Practice (CAHEP) and Dr. Dawn Fetzco of Colorado Primary Care Clinic, are teaming up to distribute 600 vaccines during an “equity vaccine clinic” on April 3 at Stampede, a night club and concert venue located at 2430 S. Havana St. in Aurora. One of their goals is to reach immigrant and Asian populations, two other disproportionately impacted groups.
“The pandemic has not impacted all communities equally. COVID-19 has highlighted our societal hierarchy and demonstrated in real time the importance of focusing on health equity,” said Katie Suleta, senior manager of evaluation & research at Colorado Access and a trained epidemiologist. “Without focusing on equity in health care, the health status of marginalized communities will continue to disproportionately suffer.”
Colorado Access acts as an advocate for these and other practices and providers by securing funding, providing training and education, and connecting them to the right resources. By offering this type of support and assistance to its provider network, they are better positioned to innovate, provide enhanced and integrated care, and strengthen individual and community health outcomes.
About Colorado Access
Colorado Access is a local, nonprofit health plan that serves members throughout Colorado. The company’s members receive health care as part of Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) and Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program). The company also provides care coordination services and administers behavioral and physical health benefits for two geographic regions as part of the Accountable Care Collaborative Program through Health First Colorado. To learn more about Colorado Access, visit coaccess.com.