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 from the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System pivoted during COVID-19 by providing new, critical services to the local community.  

At the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, when vaccine appointments were scarce, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System established the “Vaccine Hunter” Hotline. “Vaccine hunters” began as a social media movement where volunteers helped community members and strangers book vaccination appointments online. In order to address the unintended inequities arising from linguistic and digital barriers, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System set up their “Vaccine Hunter” Hotline as a multilingual phone hotline “to connect county residents and workers with vaccine information, pre-registration opportunities and appointments.” During the 8 ½ weeks that the program operated, the hotline helped over 1,200 community members to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. In the final weeks of the program, the library system called an additional 52,170 county residents in zip codes known to have lower vaccination rates and offered these residents help with vaccine access and COVID-19 relief more generally.

When vaccines became more widely available, Prince George’s County Memorial Library System hosted 25 vaccine clinics over a period of 5 months. In all, more than 2,400 vaccines were administered to community members through the hotline and on-site clinics. In addition, the library system distributed more than 124,000 self-test kits and more than 120,000 KN95 masks.

The new services and resources offered by Prince George’s County Memorial Library System have been particularly impactful for immigrants, who make up 23% of the county population, and Spanish-speaking community members. 

By the numbers
  • 53,370 people served
  • 25 vaccine clinics held
  • 2,400 vaccines administered
  • 124,000 test kits delivered
  • 120,000 KN95 masks distributed

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, is a way to increase access and reduce vaccination gaps. 

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