Mobile units aim to bring vaccines to underserved communities

Mobile Vaccinations
Posted at 2:41 PM, May 11, 2021

CHICAGO — The U.S. has topped 260 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine administered, but the number of people getting it each day is starting to drop. A new program by Walgreens aims to expand access in some of the hardest-hit communities.

Originally used as a mobile pharmacy deployed during natural disasters, Walgreens has reconfigured its trailer to serve as a mobile walk-up vaccination unit.

“We also have coach busses. Why not take them out to the community and come out and make them more accessible to them for the vaccines?” said Latasha Guy, a pharmacist and manager at Walgreens.

The trailer has five vaccination stations and can administer 400 doses a day or more. It was recently deployed at a church fair on Chicago’s west side.

Chicago resident Joan Hill-McClain has been trying to get her daughter, Victoria, to get the vaccine.

“It's been extremely tough. She's the very last person in the family to get it, you know, so she's pretty hesitant,” said Hill-McClain.

But when Hill-McClain saw the walk-up opportunity, she grabbed her daughter by the arm to get in line for a jab.

“She was like, ‘Well, you know, don't you want to get the shot?’ ‘No, not really.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know what, mom? Since you didn't want anything for Mother’s Day, this is your Mother's Day gift.’ And she was like, ‘Oh, my God. Oh, my God. This is the best Mother's Day ever,’” recalled Victoria McClain.

Along with the problem of vaccine hesitancy, there have also been racial disparities. Black and brown people have gotten smaller shares of vaccinations despite having disproportionately higher numbers of cases and deaths.

For example, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation in Colorado, 10% of vaccinations have gone to Hispanic people, while they account for 41% of cases and 25% of deaths. In Washington, D.C., Black people have received 31% of vaccinations, while they make up 55% of cases and 70% of deaths.

“Those are the communities we try to target because we know those are the people that need us most, so we go out and make sure that we're accessible to them,” said Guy.

For Michelle Padilla, the trailer gave her easy access to the vaccine.

“I know a lot of elderly people that can't get out to the doctor and can't walk,” she said. “It made me get it, coming to me. So, it’ll make more people get it. More people will be vaccinated, you know, and that helps everybody.”

Walgreens plans to use its coach units to take the program on the road to at least nine other locations across the country.