Pharmacist Builds Vaccine Confidence in Students, Their Parents, and the Greater Community

Pharmacist Keri Hurley-Kim vaccinates a patient at Saban Community Clinic in Los Angeles, California.

Pharmacist Keri Hurley-Kim vaccinates a patient at Saban Community Clinic in Los Angeles, California.

When it comes to her efforts to instill vaccine confidence and get people vaccinated, Keri Hurley-Kim, PharmD, believes no opportunity is too small.

“If you have to put in ten hours of time to eventually immunize one kid, then that’s what’s necessary, and that’s what you do,” said Hurley-Kim, a clinical pharmacist at Saban Community Clinic, a Federally Qualified Health Center in Los Angeles, California. She is also an associate clinical professor at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and chairs the Immunization Coalition of Los Angeles County (ICLAC).

Much of Hurley-Kim’s work focuses on doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of unvaccinated children in the community. With ICLAC, she helps coordinate mobile vaccine clinics funded by the National Association of School Nurses. The mobile clinic partners go to schools to provide vaccines for children missing required immunizations, no matter how few children at the site are in need.

“We identify where there’s need, one by one, reach out to those parents, and then bring the mobile clinics to the individual schools whether there are four kids or 40,” Hurley-Kim explained.

While the program is intended to provide children with vaccines required for school attendance, program coordinators reach out to parents for consent to have the clinic vaccinate their children against COVID-19 and flu as well. Because state Medicaid covers most children living in the low-income area targeted by the school vaccination program, ICLAC uses much of its funding for education and to incentivize children and families to come to the clinic when it visits their school.

“We make sure kids have a granola bar and water before their vaccine,” Hurley-Kim said. “Many kids don’t have food at home for breakfast, so fainting after a vaccine is a very real risk.”

Through ICLAC, Hurley-Kim helped design the curriculum for the “Day of Science” at a local summer camp for middle school and high school students from under-resourced communities. The course taught campers—in a playful, hands-on way—about germ theory and how vaccines work to prevent disease.

“Many of these kids don’t even know the words ‘vaccine’ or ‘immunization.’ The only word they know is ‘shot,’ which tells me that they don’t know whether it’s medicine or prevention. So, we are building that foundation.”

Hurley-Kim was struck by how deeply the students engaged with the material. The program, she says, is intended to have far-reaching effects. It should motivate the students to get all their vaccines, not only COVID-19 vaccines, and they should bring their excitement on the topic home to their parents and families.

Similar to the mission of the summer camp–based curriculum, Hurley-Kim’s clinical work at Saban Community Clinic is sometimes more about laying the groundwork than how many doses of COVID-19 vaccine she can administer each day.

Since COVID-19 vaccines first became available, Hurley-Kim has seen patients daily who are strongly opposed to getting vaccinated. Still, she continues to gently offer vaccination at every visit.

Practice Pearl

Be available as a consistent source of care and continue talking to unvaccinated patients about COVID-19 vaccine.

Learn more

“What pharmacists can do is be a very consistent source of care,” Hurley-Kim said. “I see my patients far more frequently than their primary care providers do. So, once they decide to get the vaccine, many intentionally seek me out, as their pharmacist, to give it to them.”

Unfortunately, it has often taken the COVID-19–related deaths of cherished family and friends to get some patients into the clinic for vaccination. Recently, one of Hurley-Kim’s patients, who was previously strongly opposed to COVID-19 vaccine, came in to get vaccinated after the deaths of several loved ones to the virus.

“This shows that change can happen, and it’s a reason to keep having those conversations about vaccines.”

Community Outreach Tools and resources to Tailor Your Outreach to help specific populations build COVID-19 vaccine confidence are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.