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Health & Wellness

Mobile Vaccination Efforts Help Reach Underserved Communities In The Fight Against COVID-19

A female nurse gives a man a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in his left arm.
Stella M. Chávez
/
KERA News
Robert Henley, 64, of Ennis gets his first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in Waxahachie. The vaccination event was organized by Baylor Scott & White Health.

Baylor Scott & White Health officials say they want to eliminate as many barriers to getting the vaccine as possible by taking their vaccination program to the community.

Lluliana Flores wanted to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but she didn’t know how to register. Fortunately for Flores, she got a call from her local community health clinic letting her know they could sign her up. That outreach, she said, made all the difference.

“I know a lot of people who are worried they’ll die if they get the vaccine because that’s the information they’ve heard from others,” said Flores, who added that she didn't want to be persuaded by that misinformation. “You end up being influenced by that and then you start to panic.”

Last month, Flores was one of 200 people who received their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccineat a park in Waxahachie. Baylor Scott & White Health organized the event as part of its mobile vaccination program. The idea is to eliminate as many barriers to getting the vaccine as possible. Taking the vaccine to the community at a neighborhood park, for example, might make residents feel more comfortable than say a sterile vaccination hub.

Niki Shah, vice president of community health for Baylor Scott & White, said she and her team look at various factors to determine where it makes sense to take their mobile vaccination program.

“One of the things that we do is we look at where the hubs are. We look at the data to see what is the percentage of people that are being vaccinated,” Shah said. “What are their backgrounds? What are their demographics? Where are they from? Then, where we see gaps in some of that, we really go in and figure out how do we help that particular community.”

Shah said Baylor worked closely with the Hope Clinic in Waxahachie, a federally funded healthcare center that treats patients regardless of their ability to pay. Churches, faith-based groups and other community organizations also helped to identify people who were eligible but hadn’t been vaccinated.

“When we made phone calls, we would even say, ‘I’m calling on behalf of Pastor Cooper,’ or ‘I’m calling on behalf of Waxahachie Care’ and the people that have talked to those organizations then were at least willing to talk with us,” Shah said. “That trust level was there because of the trust they have in the organizations.”

Baylor staff and volunteers took their vaccination registration efforts on the go too. One day, they signed up people in the carpool line outside a nearby elementary school and they registered teachers too. They even walked over to nearby Burleson Honey — a honey production and packing plant — and signed up employees there.

A female nurse vaccinates a woman in a wheelchair at an outdoor vaccination event.
Stella M. Chávez
Mildred Sargent, 78, of Waxahachie received her first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at an outdoor event organized by Baylor Scott and White Health.

At the recent vaccination event, 78-year-old Mildred Sargent said she was nervous about getting the shot. But she was also thankful.

“It was fine because at first I said I wasn’t going to do it and with all the problems I do have, I said I need it,” she said. “I feel like everybody who have any kind of illness in their body, they need it.”

Alex Arroliga, chief medical officer for Baylor Scott & White, said even as the vaccine becomes more widely available, this kind of outreach will be crucial, especially in Black and brown communities.

Nationwide, Blacks and Latinos have been hardest hit by COVID-19.

“It’s not that the pandemic caused that,” Arroliga said. “The inequalities in the healthcare system have been there for a long time and that’s something that needs to be fixed. The pandemic basically shined a light to those inequalities.”

Arroliga said it can’t just be up to one person, one nonprofit or one hospital to make sure the majority of people are vaccinated.

“We need the community to do its part,” he said. “It needs to be the healthcare systems and the community and the community has to be engaged, has to assume responsibility, has to understand that the only way out is by achieving good numbers in the vaccination rate.”

To keep marching towards that, more mobile vaccination events are planned for north and central Texas in the coming weeks, including a return to Waxahachie to give the second dose of the vaccine.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

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