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Expanding Vaccinations for the Underinsured and Uninsured 

Amy Bachyrycz, a pharmacist with Walgreens and the University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy, was providing flu and COVID-19 vaccinations at community health events in conjunction with the Care Van® of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM) when she realized they could do more to help New Mexicans if they were able to expand the vaccines they offered.

“There’s definitely an opportunity and some gaps in care in rural areas and throughout the state as well,” says Bachyrycz, who is also president of the New Mexico Pharmaceutical Care Foundation. “Sometimes people don’t have a medical home where they go to see their doctor regularly, or they’re transitioning different doctors so they have a waiting period, or they might miss an opportunity where they’re due for a vaccine. We had identified some of those gaps in care — especially in areas that the Care Van specifically targeted — that were great opportunities for more vaccines to be given.”

Soon after this realization, BCBSNM awarded the New Mexico Pharmaceutical Care Foundation a $25,000 grant as part of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® program designed to improve the health and wellness of children and their families across the state. And now more New Mexicans, especially children who need immunizations to register for school — 6.4% of children in New Mexico do not have health insurance — can get the additional vaccines they need.

“Our mobile health clinic helps improve outcomes for all New Mexicans by working with independent health care providers to help bridge the gaps that may be preventing them from getting health care,” says Janice Torrez, BCBSNM president. “And we are excited to collaborate with the New Mexico Pharmaceutical Care Foundation to expand the types of vaccinations we can provide and play a vital role in reaching the underserved in the state.”

The impact of the grant has been significant, says Bachyrycz. “At an event where I had only been able to bring flu and COVID vaccines, now I’ve been able to bring additional vaccines, including tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis vaccines, as well as shingles vaccines. I can bring varicella vaccines and meningococcal vaccines. I am in a much better position to provide more vaccines to meet the gaps in care in a patient’s vaccination record.”

The New Mexico Pharmaceutical Care Foundation selects providers across the state, especially in small towns, to provide immunizations at community outreach events in conjunction with BCBSNM’s Care Van. Communities they’ve served recently include Pecos, Rivera, Las Vegas, Harris, Las Cruces, and the south valley in Albuquerque. Thanks to the grant, they hope to expand.

“[The grant] is important for New Mexico because we have such a wide geography, says Jennifer Ortega, the owner of Southwest Vaccination and Consulting and one of the pharmacists involved with the vaccination program.“ There are a lot of areas in the state … that don’t have enough medical providers to care for the patients in some of those outlying areas. In addition, there are many areas that are medically underserved because patients don’t have insurance, and they wouldn’t seek care or receive care if Blue Cross Blue Shield hadn’t funded this grant.”

“I’ve seen firsthand the great work being done in these communities,” says Ortega. “And it’s been very professionally gratifying for me to be able to interface and interact with these patients in their communities and to see their gratitude and hear their stories about how they don’t have a health care provider or they haven’t had access to vaccinations or haven’t had access to care. And this is the only way or the only reason they would receive their immunizations.

"So I’m very excited about the work and very proud to be working with Blue Cross Blue Shield on this outreach initiative.”

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association