More than 118 million people globally and 29 million in the U.S. have had COVID-19. Statewide and locally we have seen disproportionate cases of COVID-19 amongst BIPOC communities yet an inverse relationship with regard to vaccinating those same most vulnerable populations. Responding to the disconcerting disparity in vaccine distribution with less than one percent of vaccine recipients being African Americans, MHI called together bi-county community leaders across several sectors, including education, health, business, faith, and philanthropy. These Vaccine Convening sessions in February were an immense success with high turnout on short notice in February to discuss how the community can help build a more equitable distributive and administrative system for COVID-19 vaccination.
With the combined visioning and response of these thought leaders, we were pleased to have the opportunity to co-host several “Pop-Up” vaccine clinics beginning with the Manatee Department of Health at the Oneco United Methodist Church on February 20th. With outstanding on-the-ground recruitment efforts by our Safekeepers, we shepherded and helped facilitate the administration of over 450 COVID-19 vaccinations to elderly and vulnerable community members. With committed advance recruitment and education of the community by our Safekeepers, we had few no-shows and were able to easily fill those slots from the ongoing waiting list. We also distributed 1300 masks and 400 hand sanitizers, along with COVID-19 and general health information. The event highlighted the need for more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all communities. For many, this pop-up vaccination center was the only way that COVID-19 vaccines could be accessible to them.
MHI also provided support for two pop-up vaccine clinics at the Light of the World International Church, in collaboration with SDOH, UnidosNow, Sarasota Women of Action, Gulf Coast Medical Society and collaborating members from various Faith Alliances. Community members expressed appreciation for this effort noting that they felt valued and empowered to fight back against COVID-19, when previously many had fallen into despair. Over 700 were vaccinated across these two events.
MHI also supported recruitment for the pop-up vaccination event at the 13th Avenue Dream Center. During this event over 400 individuals were vaccinated. This event was hosted and implemented by MCR Health Services, and MHI is thankful to them for allowing us to support the cause of fighting COVID-19 and inequity in the healthcare system.
The Multicultural Health Institute has developed a unique system that has significantly improved show rates, reduced cancellations predicated on the hard work of our Safekeepers. They engage in individualized outreach for potential vaccine recipients in our community, reaching out to each individual either in person, via email, or phone depending on the needs of the individual. This unique, human-orientated approach has proven to be effective in bridging technological barriers, particularly with the elderly who have had significant trouble navigating the online registration process.