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Broadly Applicable Lessons from Vaccinating Justice-Involved Youth

March 23, 2022

Justice-involved youth include those who live in juvenile detention centers or who are on probation. This group of individuals experiences numerous barriers to vaccination – including but not limited to lack of transportation, reduced access to health care, and parents/guardians who have multiple competing responsibilities. Additionally, many of these justice-involved youth have chronic health conditions. Thus, providing COVID-19 vaccines to these youth is important. However, that is easier said than done.

This week, Pediatrics is early releasing an Advocacy Case Study by Dr. Paula Goldman and colleagues at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, entitled “Vaccination for Justice-Involved Youth” (10.1542/peds.2021-055394). This fascinating case study illustrates the barriers – and how this team overcame these barriers – to vaccinating these youth who are at high risk for developing severe COVID-19 infection.

Importantly, the lessons learned by this team are ones that are broadly applicable to all of us who work with children who experience financial, racial, educational, and/or structural disadvantage. It is important to:

  • Partner closely with members of the community in which you are working so that there is shared ownership of the specific initiative.
  • Build trust by being honest and transparent, and validating the concerns that youth or their families have.
  • Recognize the barriers that may make it difficult for patients to come to you; you may need to go to where they are.

When you read this article, think about how you can apply the lessons learned by this team to how you approach families who are disadvantaged in your community.

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