As it has throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Independence Blue Cross (Independence) took on a leadership role when the region’s focus turned to vaccinations. Independence has worked to improve access to vaccines as well as provide information and education about their safety to members of the community.
“Vaccines are our most powerful tool to stop the spread of COVID-19, open our economy up, and get our lives back to normal. We know that as vaccination rates increase, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 decrease. Independence is committed to helping more people get vaccinated so that we can achieve these results.”-Gregory E. Deavens, president and CEO
Improving Access to Vaccines
Independence cannot directly provide vaccinations. Instead, the company has collaborated with health providers and other partners to make it easier for people in the Philadelphia region to get their shots — especially those who are at-risk or live in underserved communities. Some of these efforts include:
- Working with vybe urgent care centers to transform the Independence LIVE customer experience center at 1919 Market Street in Center City Philadelphia into a vaccination site initially focused on Independence members and people in at-risk populations. Between March and June, the site administered more than 20,000 shots.
- Launching a collaboration with Rite Aid to reach out to vaccine-eligible members with one-on-one assistance to set up COVID-19 vaccine appointments at specific Rite Aid locations. More than 20,000 calls were made to eligible members, and more than 3,500 appointments were scheduled.
- Supporting Centennial Pharmacy Services to create and oversee COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Philadelphia communities with low vaccination rates in May.
- Coordinating with the Philadelphia Department of Health and other regional health departments to target outreach to Medicare members who were identified as vaccine eligible.
- Calling homebound members who live in Philadelphia, Chester, and Delaware counties to connect them with their county’s homebound vaccine provider.
- Collaborating with the City of Philadelphia, EMTs, and fire department staff to vaccinate homebound individuals.
- Joining the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans in the Vaccine Community Connectors program, which pledged to promote vaccinations for 2 million underserved, at-risk Americans.
Providing Vaccine Education
Independence has also worked to create awareness about the vaccines and provide education about vaccine safety.
“American vaccines are safe and effective,” said Dr. Richard L. Snyder, executive vice president of Facilitated Health Networks and chief medical officer. “It is important that the members and communities we serve know that, so that the momentum of vaccination can continue.”
Foremost among Independence’s efforts is continuing its award-winning Beat COVID-19 public service campaign with a new focus on vaccine awareness and education. The comprehensive campaign is using TV, print, digital/social media, streaming, radio, outdoor advertising, podcasts and more to reach people who have questions or feel uncertain about receiving the vaccine.
The campaign has also used well-known, trusted, and influential community leaders to advance its messages — including former Philadelphia Eagles Coach Dick Vermeil; Eagles announcers Mike Quick and Merrill Reese; Esther Hio-Tong Castillo (Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation); Terrill Haigler (Ya Fav Trashman); Jennifer Rodriguez (president and CEO, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce); and HughE Dillon (Philly Chit Chat).
In addition, Independence is working with The Philadelphia Tribune to launch a vaccine-focused phase of its “Our Community. Our Health.” campaign addressing chronic and other health conditions affecting the African American community.
Assisting Independence Customers
Independence also focused on helping its customers get the latest information about vaccines. The company created a customer-focused Business Hub, hosted a customer forum focused on vaccines, and created a comprehensive “Workplace Ready” toolkit and website to help make employers’ transition back to in-person work as smooth as possible. Independence call center staff, nurse health coaches and clinical staff were also trained to respond to vaccine questions.
Internally, Independence created a diverse associate ambassador group to share vaccine information with peers using a toolkit with facts, messaging, and FAQs about vaccines as well as ongoing updates.
Promoting Equitable Access Through the Independence Blue Cross Foundation
The Independence Blue Cross Foundation (IBC Foundation) continued to serve as a leader in promoting equitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations by working together with nonprofits in the southeastern Pennsylvania region to reach our neighbors in under-resourced communities. The Foundation awarded nearly $1 million in charitable grants toward the effort so far this year.
“We need to make sure that vaccinations are available for everyone, including communities of color and those in economic need,” said Stephen P. Fera, executive vice president, Public Affairs. “We are supporting organizations that are making this happen.”
The Foundation’s efforts related to COVID-19 vaccines include:
- Stepping forward as one of the region’s first and strongest supporters of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, which has vaccinated tens of thousands of people in the region.
- Awarding a $250,000 grant to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation to help make possible the City of Philadelphia’s program to immunize teachers and other personnel at all City schools.
- Supporting CATE (Community-Accessible Testing & Education), Pennsylvania’s first mobile COVID-19 testing and education unit, which now offers vaccine administration in vaccine clinics in 66 counties including southeastern Pennsylvania.
- Awarding additional funding to the region’s health centers to address patient barriers to receiving the COVID19 vaccine.
- Funding the All Faiths Vaccine Campaign, a community-based initiative that aims to share the message about the importance of vaccines, and ensure equitable access to vaccines for communities of color. The campaign involves nearly 50 entities and organizations from diverse faith traditions as well as health institutions and the City of Philadelphia.