U.S. Renal Care Requests Biden Administration Expand COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution to Dialysis Facilities
Centers That Administer COVID-19 Vaccine See a Dramatic Increase in Vaccination Rate of Dialysis Patients
PLANO, Texas – U.S. Renal Care (USRC), a leading provider of dialysis services, who cares for more than 26,000 Americans living with kidney disease, announced its request that the Biden administration designate its 350+ care centers as COVID-19 vaccination points-of-dispensing (PODs) for dialysis patients and their frontline care staff.
“Access barriers to COVID-19 vaccine in the kidney community are delaying the expediency of vaccinating our vulnerable population of patients and their caregivers,” said Mary Dittrich, MD, FASN and Chief Medical Officer of USRC. “Within our organization, centers that are dispensing the vaccine have an average patient vaccination rate of 45%, while our overall population of vaccinated patients is only 16%. It’s clear that when dialysis clinics administer vaccine, patients are much more likely to accept vaccination. Time is of the essence, so we urge the Biden administration to double down on this successful approach by prioritizing distribution to dialysis centers immediately.”
Access Barriers to COVID-19 Vaccine for Dialysis Patients via Community Resources
States and counties are heavily reliant upon technology as a means of scheduling vaccine appointments and registering for waitlists. USRC’s patient population may not have access to a computer or smart phone and can struggle to navigate the online registration process.
Transportation poses another challenge for dialysis patients. Many depend on their family members, medical transportation, or public transit for their routine commuting needs. Coordinating additional transportation to receive a vaccine at an unfamiliar location may deter patients as well.
Why Vaccination Rates are Higher for Patients Who Receive Vaccine from their Dialysis Provider
USRC regularly provides influenza and other vaccines to its patients with great success. USRC can safely and conveniently administer vaccines to its patients while they are in the clinic receiving one of their weekly dialysis treatments.
In addition, its patients have an expectation that they will receive the COVID-19 vaccine from their care team who they trust and is already a source of reliable guidance and education on the benefits and risks of the vaccine.
The Federal Government Can Help the Expediency of Vaccination
USRC dialysis clinics are well-equipped to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to its vulnerable patient population, and while state and local distribution programs are critical and should continue to be maintained and expanded, the federal government needs to allow national distributors or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to distribute the vaccine supply directly to dialysis providers industry-wide. This could be done directly with providers or, as USRC and others have proposed to the CDC, under a networking arrangement where the CDC contracts with, and provides oversight of specific organizations which then redistribute the vaccine among other dialysis providers.
Permitting patients to access the vaccine in their dialysis clinic would alleviate demand on community vaccination resources as well as local hospital systems. Studies  have shown that individuals with kidney disease are far more likely to require hospitalization if they acquire COVID-19, so such a policy change would ensure easier, timely access to the life-saving vaccine for this extremely vulnerable population.
“Urgent action is needed to save lives and protect those most vulnerable in our communities. USRC stands ready to do our part ensuring our at-risk patients are vaccinated against this devastating disease,” Dr. Dittrich concluded.
 ERA-EDTA Council, ERACODA Working Group, Chronic kidney disease is a key risk factor for severe COVID-19: a call to action by the ERA-EDTA, Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, Volume 36, Issue 1, January 2021, Pages 87–94, https://doi.org/10.1093/ndt/gfaa314