According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a process that helps facilitate the availability and use of medicines and vaccines during public health emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.” Because the outcome of a COVID-19 infection is unpredictable and can vary from mild symptoms to severe illness, or even death, it is crucial that receiving a vaccination is an opportunity available for all people.
Along with healthcare workers, the immunocompromised, and people aged 65 and older, people facing homelessness are considered one of the populations most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Those who face homelessness in shelter homes cannot isolate or properly distance themselves. In addition, those living in encampments may lack the resources to sanitize properly or the technology to schedule appointments to follow up for a first or even second vaccine dose.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 among those facing homelessness, the CDC developed specific vaccine delivery strategies by considering a city’s average population size. First, it is essential to separate people facing homelessness from those among the population who are not old enough to receive the vaccine. Homeless service sites then record an average number of people they treat daily and consider them potential vaccination patients. For example, San Francisco has an estimated population of 24,000 people who are homeless. Of those 24,000, The San Francisco Health Care for the Homeless Project (SFHCHP) records that almost 16,000 of those people qualify to receive care from given facilities.
Vaccination receivers who face homelessness are strongly encouraged to schedule their second dose before departure, as this may be their only form of contact. Planning their next appointment in-person sets them up for success to complete their vaccination. Once a city or state determines the average number of vaccine-targeted people, they work to distribute vaccines through homeless service sites that are modified to host on-site vaccination clinics. Then, when it comes time to return for a second dose, vaccine providers follow standard procedures and fill out a vaccination card for receivers.
Along with the outlined vaccine distribution procedure, homeless shelters must also implement social distancing guidelines and distribute masks, cleaners, gloves, and personal sanitation products.
Protecting those facing homelessness, along with the entirety of society, is necessary as we work to overcome this pandemic together.