One of the best ways to combat the COVID-19 pandemic is by vaccinating as many people as possible. Herd immunity can help stop the spread of the virusas new variants become more deadly and easily spreadable. One of the most at-risk populations for contracting COVID-19 are those experiencing homelessness. These people may also not have the most accessible access to get any vaccine. So, the question becomes, how do people experiencing homelessness get vaccinated?
A significant barrier for this population is scheduling an appointment online to get the vaccine. Some people experiencing homelessness do not have access to the internet to schedule. An easy fix for this issue is holding walk-in appointments to get vaccinated at local pharmacies and medical centers. Another way to access this community is by holding vaccine clinics at local homeless shelters, day programs, or food services.
Now that an appointment has been made available to these people experiencing homelessness, a new question arises. Since some vaccines require two doses, how does one ensure that someone experiencing homelessness receives both doses? Well, the Janssen vaccine only requires one dose, so that could be a preferred vaccine to administer at a place like a homeless shelter, as previously mentioned. But, if that option is not available, patients should begin the process of a two-dose vaccine even if they do not know when they may be able to return for a second dose.
Transportation to and from the vaccine distribution site may be difficult for people experiencing homelessness. Luckily, Uber and Lyft provide free rides to and from a vaccination clinic through their apps. This is just one way to provide transportation to the vaccine clinic, though a more effective way may be bringing vaccines directly to these populations.
An issue that faces youths experiencing homelessness is that getting a vaccine for people under 18 may require caregiver consent, depending on the state that someone is in. These youths face an extra barrier in receiving the vaccine if they are displaced from family and cannot get caregiver consent. If a youth experiencing homelessness wants the vaccine and does not have access to it, they should talk with any caseworkers they may have, group shelter facilitators, or group home staff to find a way to get the vaccine.
States need to ensure that they are making an effort to vaccinate people experiencing homelessness. Every person needs to have access to the vaccine if they want to get it, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic class. Getting a vaccine is one of the top ways to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and make everyone’s life safer.