Role of Public Libraries in COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

In the COVID-19 response, partnerships are essential to reaching refugee, immigrant, and migrant (RIM) communities, maximizing resources, reducing duplicating efforts, and improving the delivery of services and resources. The requirement in most of the U.S., that a person must visit a medical facility to receive medical services, is a large barrier for many individuals and communities, particularly for preventive health care such as immunizations. As COVID-19 vaccines become available, it is important to ensure RIM communities receive the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Reaching RIM Communities through Libraries

Public libraries serve as ideal partners for COVID-19 vaccination rollout. As a trusted source of information and a well-connected hub within their local communities, libraries across America are working with local and state governments and community leaders to support vaccination efforts. They have been helping to counter misinformation, spread the word about available vaccines, support with the registration process, and some libraries have even served as sites for vaccination clinics. 

Partnering with Libraries in Maryland

In Maryland, library employees within the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System pivoted during COVID-19 to provide critical services to the local community in the form of establishing the “Vaccine Hunter Hotline. “Vaccine hunters” began as a social media movement where people would voluntarily help community members and strangers book vaccination appointments. In order to address the unintended inequities that arose from these efforts, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System set up the Vaccine Hunter Hotline “to connect county residents and workers with vaccine information, pre-registration opportunities and appointments.” Within three weeks of being established, the hotline helped to register over 750 clients for appointments and was particularly impactful for immigrant and Spanish-speaking community members. 

Partnering with Libraries in Georgia

In Georgia, Fulton County established the “Vaccines in the Libraries” program as the first county in the state to provide vaccinations at libraries. In partnership with the nonprofit CORE, Fulton County provided vaccinations at libraries in communities with lower rates of vaccination. Communities were identified to determine where to hold vaccinations by reviewing data from the Georgia Department of Public Health, and selecting libraries that are located within those specific communities. The schedule rotated every three weeks to accommodate second doses. Bringing vaccines to a convenient location within communities with low vaccination rates like libraries, are a way to increase access and reduce vaccination gaps. 

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