Many refugee, immigrant and migrant (RIM) community members experience significant logistical barriers to COVID-19 vaccination. As vaccine allocation in the United States includes increasing numbers of people, many vaccine campaigns rely on internet-based registration and utilize locations that accommodate large numbers of people for vaccine administration. This strategy can be ineffective for many RIM communities due to a variety of factors. Limited English proficiency or technology capability can prevent successful registration while transportation barriers impact the ability to reach the location where vaccines are administered. Additionally, the complexity of navigating a large and confusing vaccination site with unfamiliar staff is intimidating, resulting in yet another barrier to vaccination.
Bringing Vaccines Directly to the Community
Providing vaccination opportunities at community locations can bypass many of the barriers mentioned above and protect both vaccinated individuals and the community at large against COVID-19. Strategic partnerships between health organizations and communities can identify optimal vaccine provision opportunities for a community. In addition to obtaining vaccine doses and the necessary staff to administer vaccines, considerations for implementing a community-based vaccination strategy should include the use of multilingual staff (or interpreters), a simplified registration process, and a convenient location for the community. If the vaccine provided requires a second dose, plans to provide that dose should be established and communicated during initial dose administration.
Neighborhood Pop-Up COVID-19 Vaccine Site in Seattle
COVID-19 vaccines were provided to approximately 100 elders in Seattle, many of whom are refugees and immigrants, through a pop-up clinic. The event was created through a partnership between a local independently owned pharmacy (immigrant- and Black-owned), apartment complex, state health department, and the Somali Health Board. Vaccines were provided to the pharmacy from the health department. The clinic was operated by volunteers who registered participants and administered vaccines in a parking lot adjacent to the apartment complex. If residents were unable to leave their apartments, a nurse offered door-to-door vaccination. Apartment community leaders provided interpretation in Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromo, and Somali. The vaccine clinic was publicized primarily via communication between apartment building residents with the clinic’s success being attributed to this use of trusted community leaders in information dissemination. Listen to this story on NPR for more details.