Coronavirus

Mobile vaccination units address inequities as mass sites close

"Now what’s left are the people that need more information, who need hand-holding."

Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition’s unveiling of a billboard encouraging residents to get vaccinated at 10 Washington street Dorchester. (David L Ryan/Globe Staff )

After administering over 600,000 doses, the mass vaccination site at Gillette Stadium is closing down. Now, the state is turning to more localized measures like mobile units to deploy vaccines to where they’re needed most.

Demand at mass vaccination sites has been dropping for a couple of weeks. There were thousands of appointments available online, which indicated the need to move efforts elsewhere.

Mobile units launched in April at the state level, and in early May state officials told Boston.com that so far 61% of vaccine recipients at mobile units were people of color. The expanded mobile efforts then focused on the 20 most impacted communities in Massachusetts.

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“It’s important to bring the vaccine to the local community, especially the Black and brown community,” Adam Scott, senior vice president of health care services at Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, told The Boston Globe in April. “This is about getting shots into arms.”

Targeting vaccination inequities

When the state launched mobile units, it was for the same reasons they’re being deployed now: mass vaccination sites are not accessible to everyone, and mobile units deliver vaccines directly to communities like Dorchester and Mattapan that have been heavily impacted and where vaccination rates have hit a wall.

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The Black Boston COVID-19 Coalition is taking action, and this week began “Taking It To The Streets,” a mobile vaccination and COVID-19 testing van and education initiative. Coalition member Cheryl Clyburn Crawford told WBUR it’s building on the phone banking, flyering, canvassing and other outreach they’ve been doing.

“We’ve been following the numbers from the city and the state and the areas that have been most impacted by zip code — Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Hyde Park and Roslindale,” she said. “So we decided to focus our energies in that space and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

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Boston neighborhood vaccination data shows Mattapan and Dorchester remain well below the city’s average vaccination rate of 52.5%, though Mattapan has the lowest rate by far at 31.2%

BBCC Co-Founder Dianne Wilkerson told the Globe that this second phase effort is about education, not just ensuring access. Volunteers are knocking on doors, flyering neighborhoods, and answering questions in a variety of languages.

“Now what’s left are the people that need more information, who need hand-holding and were never going to come to a Reggie Lewis vaccination center,” she said.

Wilkerson said the van will run three days a week through at least August.

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