view of COVID vaccination center on the indoor track of The Armory

How Outreach Increased COVID Vaccine Uptake Among Black, Hispanic Residents

Community outreach and restricting COVID-19 vaccine appointments by zip code helped NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital reach Black and Hispanic patients and reduce health disparities in COVID-19 vaccine uptake, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and NewYork-Presbyterian. The study was published online June 22 in JAMA Open Network.

Between Jan. 14, 2021, and May 14, 2021, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital operated a large COVID-19 vaccination site at the Fort Washington Armory in Washington Heights, a racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood that was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Online self-scheduling was initially open to all New York state residents. On Jan. 28, the hospital digitally redesigned the scheduling system to restrict it to residents from local zip codes with high racial and ethnic minority populations.

In addition, direct outreach began Feb. 3 with a focus on local Spanish-speaking and underserved communities. This outreach was conducted through community-based organizations such as senior centers, faith-based organizations, and local primary care practices. Outreach included social media campaigns, support from trusted community ambassadors, educational presentations to community groups, and use of community-based organizations to directly schedule appointments on behalf of patients.

Before these two interventions, Black patients represented only 2% of the self-scheduled appointments for a first COVID-19 vaccine dose, and Hispanic patients represented 4%. Following the digital redesign that restricted the majority of scheduling to certain zip codes, those numbers increased to 10% and 31%, respectively.

Additionally, Black patients accounted for 12% of appointments made through community outreach, and Hispanic patients represented 58% of appointments.

Daniela Diaz, MD

Daniela Diaz

“We saw a substantial increase in COVID-19 vaccine appointments at the Armory from Black and Hispanic patients once zip codes were restricted and direct outreach began,” says Daniela C. Diaz, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, associate medical director of New York-Presbyterian’s Herman “Denny” Farrell Jr. Community Health Center, and the lead author of the study.

“These are populations that we knew were at higher risk for COVID-19 infection and hospitalization and had lower vaccination rates. We believe these steps could be replicated to help reduce health disparities in future public health campaigns.”

Ultimately, more than 100,000 people were vaccinated at the Armory in a collaboration that included New York state, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, and Weill Cornell Medicine. 


The original version of this article was published in Health Matters, an online publication of NewYork-Presbyterian.

The study is titled "Assessment of Digital and Community-Based Outreach Interventions to Encourage COVID-19 Vaccination Uptake in an Underserved Community."

All authors: Daniela Diaz (Columbia and NYP), Sharon Chacko (Columbia and NYP), Anne Sperling (NYP), Elaine Fleck (Columbia and NYP), Irene Louh (Columbia and NYP), Richard Trepp (Columbia and NYP), and Siqin Ye (Columbia).