Feeling relieved: Pop-up vaccination clinics reach underserved populations
Steelton resident Betty Frometa slept much easier Saturday night, knowing she had taken the next best step to help ensure she will be around for a long time to watch over her adult disabled daughter.
She got the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination clinic at Penn State Health Medical Group ― Harrisburg on March 27 where more than 300 people were inoculated, many of them from underserved populations.
“We were trying to follow all the guidelines to stay safe, and I was so happy when I heard I qualified for the vaccine because of my health, and so do my husband and my daughter,” said Frometa. “I tried every day for the past month on every website I heard had slots… I tried in the morning, in the afternoon and even at midnight, but I wasn’t lucky.”
When Frometa’s church announced help to register for the Penn State Health pop-up clinic, she didn’t hesitate. She got appointments for herself, her husband and her daughter.
“I won’t worry as much about my daughter now… It’s like a little cloud is out of my head,” Frometa said.
Since early March, Penn State Health, with the assistance of community organizations and local government officials, has provided pop-up vaccination clinics at locations in Berks, Dauphin, Lancaster and Lebanon counties, specifically targeted to underserved communities.
“As states are opening up more and allowing people to be in public spaces, and cases are rising, it’s becoming more and more important to get vaccinated,” said Jeanette Gibbs, Penn State Health senior vice president, ambulatory services. “We’re also trying to educate people that the vaccine is safe, and it could be lifesaving.”
The March 27 clinics, staffed by 80 Penn State Health employees in Harrisburg and at Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Campus in Reading, provided 664 individuals with their first dose of the Moderna vaccine. During previous Penn State Health pop-up clinics in Harrisburg, Lancaster and Lebanon, a total of 200 vaccinations were administered.
“These individuals are at high risk for COVID,” said Andrea Murray, project manager and community engagement coordinator with Penn State College of Medicine’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program. “They may not have health insurance or reliable access to health care. And many have been considered essential employees since the pandemic began.”
Each clinic is by appointment only. Community partners —including the NAACP, the Latino Hispanic American Community Center in Harrisburg and Berks County Coalition to End Homelessness, among many others — help identify and reach out to underserved individuals in Phase 1A.
“Transportation, language and access to the internet can all be barriers, and these events serve to eliminate those barriers and allow us to go into the community and meet people where they are most comfortable,” said Ashley Visco, Penn State Health community health director.
“I’m so excited to get my vaccine today. I am looking forward to visiting my family in Puerto Rico soon,” said Virginia Huertes, of Reading, after getting her first dose on Saturday.
Anthony Jackson, also of Reading, said his first dose gets him that much closer to being able to coach wrestling and watch his son wrestle at Millersville University.
Temple resident Melanie Keller was having a hard time finding the vaccine anywhere she tried. “I have underlying conditions, so this is a gift,” she said.
Six additional clinics in Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and Strausstown will take place in April to provide second doses, and Penn State Health plans to continue to work with community partners to schedule additional clinics.
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