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 can 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 clinics already familiar to RIM community members can bypass many of the barriers mentioned above and protect both vaccinated individuals and the community at large against COVID-19. When feasible, it is ideal for the clinic to offer vaccination beyond their regular patient base to the broader local community. In planning for a clinic-based pop-up event, clinic staff should ensure that they have secured the necessary vaccination doses to run the event and establish a plan for outreach. The plan may include the posting of translated flyers at locations frequented by members of the RIM community, the mailing of translated information about the event to already existing patients of the clinic, and individual follow-up phone calls to those patients using multilingual staff or trained interpreters. Through these calls, patient concerns may be addressed and additional support, such as transportation assistance, may be offered. At the event, a simplified registration process, presence of multilingual staff or trained interpreters, and printed, translated information about the vaccine will support accessibility and efficiency.
Clinic-Based Pop-Up COVID-19 Vaccine Site in Minnesota
COVID-19 vaccines were provided to over 230 patients of the M Health Fairview Clinic – Bethesda through a pop-up event held at the clinic. Located in St. Paul, Minnesota, the clinic operates within a large health system that serves a significant number of refugee and immigrant patients, many of whom have had a difficult time navigating the vaccination system. To support these patients in receiving the vaccine, the clinic planned an onsite pop-up event, building on already established relationships with patients. With a little over a week to prepare, clinic staff phoned every eligible patient to make them aware of the opportunity, address concerns they had, and support them in scheduling transportation. The pop-up clinic was staffed by people the patients knew and trusted, with the support of in-person interpreters.