Patience and Listening Lead to Success

Saad Dinno (left) with his pharmacy staff and employees of MAB Community Services, a Brookline, Massachusetts, organization that serves people who are blind or who have developmental disabilities or brain injuries.

Saad Dinno, BSPharm, has brought COVID-19 vaccines to numerous congregate housing facilities around the Boston area. He and his team have helped vaccinate numerous residents in high-density settings, from group homes for people living with cognitive impairments or physical challenges to low-income housing complexes.

“When we vaccinate a whole building, there’s a chance that we are preventing another outbreak,” said Dinno, co-owner of Dinno Health, an independent pharmacy group serving four Massachusetts communities. Dinno runs the business with his brother Ray Dinno, BSPharm.

Besides mitigating the heightened risk of community spread in these high-density settings, vaccine clinics in congregate housing also lower barriers to vaccination for many people who might otherwise miss the opportunity.

Eliminating logistical barriers

Dinno and his team from Dinno Health have vaccinated people who are blind, paralyzed, and homebound at the 20 or more sites they’ve visited over the last few months. The logistics of transporting some of these patients to off-site vaccine events might have caused major delays. At the sites, patients who were able came to a common area to receive the vaccine. For those who were homebound, Dinno or a member of his team took the vaccine to the patient’s room. After administering the vaccine, the vaccinator waited the requisite 15 or 30 minutes with the patient in case of adverse events.

“One patient, who was bedridden, asked, ‘Can I give you a hug? I just can’t believe you came all the way here to see me and give me the vaccine,’” Dinno recalled.

At each clinic, when Dinno arrived an hour early to set up, residents were already lined up to await their turn. Caregiving staff, however, were not as eager.

“That was a little discouraging at the beginning,” Dinno said. “We saw a lot of hesitancy.”

Hesitancy among health workers

The most common refrain, Dinno said, was that the mRNA technology used in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is too new to trust. To which Dinno replied, “It’s a new avenue for vaccines, but the technology has been around and in use in other disease states for decades.”

Others told Dinno that they weren’t completely opposed to the vaccine but that they planned to wait a little longer, in case any new adverse effects or events arose. To this, Dinno explained that the longer they waited, the longer they continued to put themselves at risk.

Dinno stresses the importance of listening carefully to people with vaccine hesitancies and thoroughly addressing their concerns with facts. He shares data from the clinical trial with them, which shows that nearly 30,000 people received the vaccine in the study.

“This wasn’t just a couple thousand people, I told them. There were many, many thousands of people.”

Vaccine converts make ardent supporters

Soon, Dinno began to see a shift. When he returned to those sites to administer second doses, many of those who were hesitant at first came back to get the vaccine. The converts, Dinno found, might turn out to be more ardent proponents of the vaccine than those who had bought in from the start.

“What I noticed with those individuals who were hesitant at first, many of whom were immigrants from other countries, was that many of them either recorded or took pictures of themselves getting the vaccine,” Dinno recalled. “They said they were going to send it home to their country to show that the vaccine was safe. That’s a great message coming not from the CDC but from an individual that you know.”

Had Dinno not given each of their concerns the time and respect they deserved, they would not have come back a few weeks later to get the vaccine.

“It’s important that we give people a chance to discuss their questions and fears with us,” Dinno said. “We can’t ignore the ‘No, I don’t want it.’ We have to come back with ‘May I ask why? Maybe I can help answer some of your questions.’”