Greater Richmond’s Efforts for Equitable Vaccine Access
As the Richmond region continues its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, nonprofit health clinics are playing a critical role in ensuring that our most vulnerable residents can access the vaccine.
For many people, the easiest way to sign up to receive a vaccine is through an online portal. However, some seniors, low-income residents, and people experiencing homelessness may not have internet access, transportation, or full trust in the medical field. With this in mind, safety net clinics and local health departments are engineering targeted outreach efforts to make sure that everyone who needs a vaccine can receive one.
For example, Daily Planet Health Services has been leading local efforts in vaccinating residents experiencing homelessness. The organization built on its close relationships with our region’s homeless shelters early on, providing COVID-19 testing throughout the pandemic so shelters could remain as safe as possible. When vaccines first became available, Daily Planet led efforts to vaccinate health workers across the region so that people who would be administering vaccines or caring for COVID-19 patients could do so safely.
Daily Planet's William Smith, RN, (on left) administers a vaccine to Daily Planet Case Manager Ford Franklin.
To make sure that transportation is not a barrier to access, now Daily Planet is continuing to meet people where they are in order to administer vaccines, including homeless shelters and hotels. “These folks are often at a higher risk of complications if they were to contract COVID-19 because many are seniors or have pre-existing health conditions, which is why it’s important that they’re vaccinated,” said Stephanie Cuttino, Clinical Operations Director at Daily Planet. “People experiencing homelessness also may not stay in one place, so they have an increased likelihood of infecting others if they were to contract the virus themselves.”
The Richmond City Health District has been holding vaccination events at the Arthur Ashe Center and they have been coordinating with other local health districts for large-scale regional vaccination efforts at the Richmond Raceway — both of which are accessible by bus. To further accessibility efforts, the district is conducting on-site vaccinations at group living centers. They have also partnered with community organizations like Second Baptist Church in Southside, whose leaders already have the relationships and trust necessary for successful door-to-door outreach.
Daily Planet’s Pharmacist Dr. Kelly Goode (on right) and Clinical Operations Director Stephanie Cuttino, RN, prepare syringes with COVID-19 vaccines.
"If we don't include health equity and just do things as we've always done them, we will always leave people out-especially our friends, family members and neighbors who are part of under resourced communities,” said Jackie Lawrence, Director of Health Equity with RCHD. “We shouldn’t allow a history of inequity to continue to build barriers today. This is our opportunity to add resources of best fit. We are listening for unique needs and building unique pathways to access the vaccine for those that are interested."
To support the ongoing vaccination efforts of key healthcare partners, the Central Virginia COVID-19 Response Fund recently granted a total of $182,200 to Richmond City Health District, GoochlandCares, Daily Planet, and Health Brigade. The Community Foundation is also helping to organize the volunteer infrastructure necessary to carry out vaccination events. As the region’s volunteer hub, the Foundation is using its HandsOn Greater Richmond web platform to recruit “COVID-19 Volunteers on Call,” or individuals who can be available on short notice to assist with local vaccination events. So far, volunteer opportunities have included placing phone calls to seniors who might need assistance signing up online and serving as greeters and parking assistants at local vaccination events.
For more information about COVID-19 Volunteers on Call, visit the HandsOn website.