In the past few months, the U.S has been able to successfully vaccinate many, however, some homeless people are still facing difficulties. One of the most prevalent being not having access to the booking sites. A clinic in Oakland, California has been able to overcome this obstacle by working with local officials and administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to “unsheltered people”.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has shown to be the most common one given to the most vulnerable communities. A group in Chicago called the Night Ministry that serves the homeless community explains why they have been specifically providing the J & J vaccine: “ ‘When we’re out on the CTA, we’re never going to see these people again,’ Mr. Koruba said.” While Moderna and Pfizer are vaccines that require two doses, J & J is only one dose, which makes it easier for those who struggle to book appointments, as it’s a one-time thing.
LifeLong Medical Care, a clinic in the Bay Area, uses vans that include equipment and even refrigerators that keep the vaccine at the right temperature to be able to transport their services to an Oakland encampment. Dr. Jason Reinking, a street medicine doctor at the clinic, describes, “We flipped the medical paradigm on its head. We essentially bring care directly to people instead of waiting for people to come to care."
The clinic has spent over 6 months getting to know and build relationships with the people at the encampment. This has helped tremendously with those who felt hesitant at first but now aren’t as much because they have been able to build trust in the staff and the vaccine. Clinic staff members are trained to only explain the medical and scientific information, not try to convince them to get the vaccine, giving them that choice to make for their health.
Underlying medical conditions and the circumstances homeless people face that prevent them from being able to wash their hands and social distance make it easier for them to contract Covid. It is imperative that counties are making it a priority to vaccinate their homeless population. Through being able to move vaccine registration and appointments off of a digital platform, they are able to protect the most vulnerable groups even despite the digital divide.