Working with parents to ensure children in underserved communities receive essential vaccinations. | MedStar Health

Working with Parents to Ensure Children in underserved Communities Receive Essential Vaccinations.

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A nurse from MedStar Health poses for a photo with a mother and her daughter with the MedStar mobile health truck in the background.

Pictured above: Eboni Hawkins and her daughter with a member of the community pediatrics team after a visit to the Kids Mobile Medical Clinic.

When the COVID-19 vaccine first became available for adults in late 2020, Ebony Hawkins did not plan on getting vaccinated. The 43-year-old Washington, D.C., resident had serious concerns about the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness, and long-term implications. “I just didn’t know if I could trust it,” says Hawkins. “I had a lot of questions that I needed answers to before I would even think about getting vaccinated.”

After discussing her concerns with her primary care doctors at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and with medical practitioners at the MedStar Health Kids Mobile Medical Clinic, Hawkins decided to protect herself and those around her by getting vaccinated. And when the vaccine for children under age 12 became available, she also got her 7-year-old daughter vaccinated.

“Once I was more educated about it, I felt more confident that this was safe for everyone in my family,” says the mother of three.

Knowing many families in the Washington, D.C., area share the same hesitancy about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the community pediatrics team at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital enlisted the help of Hawkins and other parents to reach families who were skeptical, too.

They created a six-member parent advisory group to get community input and advice on ways to help families feel more confident about this important health decision.

“It was a truly collaborative process,” says Joanne Odom, program administrator for Community Pediatrics at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “Their input was invaluable in helping us speak to families in a way that reached them.”

The parent advisory group helped Odom and her team with flyers, social media, and other outreach communications to clear up any misconceptions about the vaccine and provide the information necessary for families to make an informed medical decision about whether they should get vaccinated.

The MedStar Health Kids Mobile Medical Clinic makes weekly stops in Washington, D.C. Wards 5,6,7, and 8 and has become a trusted health partner for many families.

Odom says that trust was key in making patients feel more confident in their decision to vaccinate themselves and their children.

“Some may not have trust in the vaccine, but they have trust in us,” Odom says. “And we have proven to them that we always have their best interests in mind. Even those who still decided they did not want their children vaccinated, we let them know that we respected their decision and that the door would always be open if they want to discuss it further.”

Onboard the Kids Mobile Medical Clinic, which has served as a medical home to underserved children across the District for nearly 30 years, teams administered the vaccine to up to 70 children daily, then circled back to locations to ensure kids received their second dose.

For parents like Hawkins, the convenience of getting herself and her daughter vaccinated in her neighborhood by people she trusted was invaluable.

“The main thing for me was keeping my family safe,” says Hawkins. “And now I feel like we all are.”

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To learn more about MedStar Health’s programs and initiatives across Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region that are contributing to healthier communities, visit Health or email