Shelby County organizations working to increase vaccine availability for vulnerable, underserved groups

Coronavirus
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Local leaders and community groups are working toward making sure everyone has access to the COVID-19 vaccine as we work to fight the virus.

The Whitehaven vaccination site, set to open Friday for those with an appointment, is one way health officials are trying to reach different parts of the city. But there are other groups working toward the cause too.

“Equity is not necessarily the same,” said Jenny Bartlett-Prescott, chief operating officer at Church Health. “Right now, it’s being specific to the people you are trying to reach and how to best earn their trust and make them feel comfortable so that they can come get the vaccine.”

Bartlett-Prescott talks about the process of getting people vaccinated. Not just those who can make it to large vaccination sites, but others in the community, perhaps those without internet or limited transportation.

“But now, we’re also seeing the use of pharmacies and Walmart’s and community pharmacies, as well as safety net clinics like Church Health, that specifically serve underserved and uninsured populations in our community as other ways to get vaccines out,” Bartlett-Prescott said.

Church Health is vaccinating much smaller numbers of people: elderly patients they contact personally if eligible.

In today’s Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force briefing, the department’s director talked about the efforts to work with the Latino community to make sure they have proper information. She also talked about scouting future vaccination sites in Frayser.

“We’re learning from those lessons from testing of how to use this kind of collaborative web of services for the underserved that are already in place to offer vaccinations,” said Director Alisa Haushalter.

Bartlett-Prescott acknowledges community partnerships will be key as more vaccines become available.

“Just a higher volume of vaccines flowing through our system, but also these different types that allow for more flexibility in the events and how to actually administer them,” Bartlett-Prescott said.

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