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Generous Gift Supports Vaccination Partnership for Underserved Communities

COVID-19 infections have plummeted, mask mandates are dropping, and the state of Colorado is welcoming the spring with a renewed sense of “post-Covid” enthusiasm. But not all Coloradans are breathing easier. According to the CDC, approximately 1.75 million people, or a third of the population in the state, have yet to be vaccinated. Many of these people are part of historically underserved, marginalized communities where access to health care is low and vaccination hesitancy is high.

Aware of this disparity, the Cielo Foundation partnered with the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences to address these disparities; it would fuel a collaborative effort to serve vulnerable populations and vaccinate holdouts.

Teaming with 9Health:365

To reach the most at-need communities, Joe Saseen, PharmD, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs and Gina Moore, PharmD, Associate Dean for Operations, reached out to 9Health:365, to partner on equity-based vaccination clinics. Already a leader in the Denver community, and a trusted resource, joining forces with 9Health:365 was a strategic move to maximize impact. The organization started COVID-19-specific vaccine clinics in February of 2021, and a year later had hosted 321 clinics.

This was also an opportunity for CU Pharmacy clinical faculty to support their community. These dedicated faculty and fellows have given up their evenings and weekends to dutifully vaccinate, holding firm to the science that shows vaccines are safe, effective, and a path out of the pandemic phase of COVID-19.

What is unique about this philanthropic gift is that it specifies hard to reach populations. Perhaps, those who do not speak English, or might have extreme hesitancy, or maybe a family of refugees who have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

 

“We have partnered with others on a smaller scale,” Dr. Saseen explained, “but 9Health:365 does equity clinics, so it makes a lot of sense to partner. We have provided services with Advanced Pediatrics, the Black Chamber of Commerce, Zion Senior Health Center, Hope Community Center… we have done a lot.”

Still a need to vaccinate

Joe Saseen-1

 

Dr. Joe Saseen, PharmD

Saseen, a practicing pharmacist in primary care, has seen the need for vaccines throughout his career, especially so during COVID-19. One of the pioneers in the mass vaccination effort, he also led the first vaccine clinic at the CU Anschutz Campus in 2021.

“I have been involved with the vaccination effort for quite a while,” he laughed. Saseen is tracking how many vaccines the team has administered; at the time of this publication, it is 3609 COVID vaccinations and 369 flu vaccinations.

What is unique about this philanthropic gift is that it specifies hard to reach populations. Perhaps, those who do not speak English, or might have extreme hesitancy, or maybe a family of refugees who have not had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Gift provides power to vaccinate

As one of the campus leaders in vaccinations, Saseen was thrilled to receive a gift that would not only help vaccinate underserved Coloradans but also alleviate some of the stress at community pharmacies. He has seen first-hand, how many pharmacies have been overwhelmed, trying to provide vaccinations while at the same time keeping up with their normal health care responsibilities. The philanthropic support provides the workforce to vaccinate, which allows the pharmacy clinicians to do their other work.

“We are almost at the halfway point, as far as the dollars, but more to come. We will continue to administer vaccines until we are out of money,” he said.

Saseen has a group of loyalists within the School, those who repeatedly sign up to spend their free time getting shots in arms.

“There is a core group of people who will continually sign up to help,” he explained. “One of our top vaccinators is a pharmacy fellow, Dr. Jimmy Martin. He has given the most hours, and he is bilingual, which is a big help.”

Lasting partnership

Saseen stresses that both the Pharmacy School helpers, and his colleagues at 9Health:365, have been wonderful. His counterpart at 9Health:365 has been grateful to the School representatives for their willingness to dive in, and for their commitment to providing the highest quality of care.

Nurse Bobi Archer, Interim Director of Health and Wellness for 9Health:365, says the CU Pharmacy team has been a great partner.

“With their help we have made a tremendous impact on improving the vaccine experience of populations we serve, the clinicians’ experience, and the quality of care resulting in improved outcomes,” she said. “And we all have a bit of fun while we do great work.”

To support the Colorado Community Vaccine Initiative or another program of your choice at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, please contact Jonathan Wanderstock, Philanthropic Advisor and Senior Director of Development, at jonathan.wanderstock@cuanschutz.edu or 303-724-9721.

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