discoveries magazine

How Cedars-Sinai Innovated Around Vaccine Hesitancy

An illustrating vaccination success in Los Angeles

The path to a post-pandemic world is being paved by COVID-19 vaccines. But achieving herd immunity in Los Angeles has not been a straight shot, particularly in underserved, minority communities where distrust of the medical establishment and limited access have been barriers to vaccination. 

Cedars-Sinai teamed up with communities to acknowledge concerns, share factual information, and provide access to vaccine super sites, drive-through clinics and neighborhood popups.

In partnership with respected healthcare and faith leaders, Cedars-Sinai hosted candid discussions about COVID-19 vaccines via online forums. The dialogues, which reached more than 75,000 people, openly addressed vaccine hesitancy in Black, Latino, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations.

One panelist, Kenneth C. Ulmer, DMin, PhD, bishop and senior pastor of Faithful Central Bible Church in Los Angeles, told the online audience that while straight talk has an impact, serving as a model for getting vaccinated matters more.

"Not only did I get vaccinated but I made extra efforts to make sure our congregation knew that I had gotten vaccinated," he said. 

Cedars-Sinai’s Community Health Improvement Team helped increase access in practical ways, too. They helped vaccinate more than 40,000 Los Angeles Unified School District educators so they could return to in-classroom instruction. Cedars-Sinai also partnered with local organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Los Angeles and Martin Luther King Jr. Community Healthcare, to hold popup clinics in neighborhoods with low vaccination rates. 

"As an African American doctor, I know minority patients want to be taken care of by people who look like them," said Kyle Monk, MD, a Cedars-Sinai pediatrician who helped staff a South Los Angeles popup clinic. "By administering the vaccine and having personally received it, I know I give others confidence to get the vaccine."

Jasmine Onyeka Obioha, MD, a Cedars-Sinai dermatologist who also served as a vaccinator, noted the enthusiasm among those who showed up for shots. 

"Although there’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy in the minority population, everyone I vaccinated was ready and willing to get the vaccine," she said.