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COMMUNITY CLINICS’ COVID RESPONSE FOCUSES ON PREGNANT WOMEN, YOUTH

A pregnant patient at Marin Community Clinics receives the COVID-19 vaccine. The clinics provide prenatal care to more than 1,000 patients annually. - Photo courtesy Marin Community Clinics

   Marin Community Clinics, the nonprofit federally qualified health center that operates several community health clinics in Marin County, is now focusing its COVID-19 response on targeting specific groups within the community that are lagging behind in vaccination and booster rates. Those groups include pediatric patients ages 5 to 11 who are vaccine-eligible but not yet vaccinated; youth and adolescents ages 12 and up who are booster-eligible but have not yet received a booster dose; and a particularly vulnerable group: pregnant patients who are not yet vaccinated or boosted.

   Vaccination and booster rates remain lower among these groups compared to the general public. Pregnant women are at an increased risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19 and experiencing adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth, stillbirth and other complications, according to health officials. The CDC has established within its guidelines that the vaccine provides strong protection and is safe during all stages of pregnancy, yet there is still vaccine hesitancy among pregnant patients locally.
  “Our clinicians are finding that sometimes getting through to patients requires going beyond citing guidelines and government recommendations,” said Dr. Melanie Thompson, Marin Community Clinics’ chief medical officer. 

   Providing education, dispelling myths and connecting with patients on a personal level about the increased risks involved in forgoing the vaccine has helped, she said.
  “We’re seeing that having that established trusting relationship between patient and provider encourages the dialogue, and the added attention and more widespread information available now is resulting in a gradual increase in vaccinations,” Dr. Thompson said.

   The clinics provide prenatal care to more than 1,000 patients in a given year. Within the past year, approximately 67% of pregnant patients have been vaccinated, while about 33% have been boosted. Given the added risks involved in contracting COVID-19 while pregnant, the clinics are working to increase vaccination and booster rates among the group.

   The clinics are continuing to ramp up outreach locally to target the younger population and pregnant patients by collaborating with the California Department of Public Health, the County of Marin and several community based organizations including Canal Alliance and North Marin Community Services to combine efforts.    

   Marin Community Clinics remained open throughout the pandemic supporting the local community – offering COVID-19 vaccine clinics, treatment and testing. The clinics recently distributed more than 100,000 at-home rapid test kits and 20,000 N95 masks within the community during the omicron surge. For more information, visit marinclinic.org.

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