Alabama Schweitzer Fellow Advocates for Increased HPV Vaccination Rates Within State

By Jasmine E. Crenshaw

Improving Patients’ Vaccine Access

As a fourth year medical student in the UAB School of Medicine, 2020 Alabama Schweitzer Fellow Maani Kamal witnessed many instances during hospital rotations where patients died from easily treatable conditions. She reflected on these experiences, wondering how different these patients’ lives would have been if given earlier treatment or immunization access. For her Fellowship project, Maani, the UAB School of Medicine student ,decided to increase the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates in her community, a feasible goal that could help prevent similar situations that her patients experienced. It is recommended for youth between the ages of 11 and 12 to get two doses of the HPV vaccine. As of 2019, Alabama’s HPV vaccination rate stands at 20%, compared to the national average of 49%. Facing this challenge, Maani found a great community site partner in Alabama Regional Medical Services (ARMS), a Birmingham-area medical service organization that provides many offerings, including immunizations. 

Advocating for Better Immunization

Maani has focused on increasing the HPV vaccination rates among the patients at ARMS during her Fellowship year. Through this experience and graduate studies at the UAB School of Medicine, she learned more about community-based project planning, clinical work, and adaptability. 

Maani has encountered multiple challenges in reaching her goal of increased vaccination rates throughout her project. Still, she acknowledged a few methods that public health practitioners and medical providers could implement around immunizations to eliminate the challenges. These methods include community education and multimedia video that will guide and comfort those taking the vaccines. These methods can apply to the current COVID-19 vaccinations, as well. Maani provided some insight on handling someone who might be apprehensive about getting the COVID-19 vaccine: “I think it is hard because people who do not want to get the new vaccine probably have a good reason for why they are apprehensive. I would try to understand why, explain that I am on their team, and make sure not to shame them.” Maani also provided many recommendations for those eager to research about their vaccines, such as discussions with your primary care provider and visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘s website for trusted information.