HELENA — The Lewis and Clark County Vaccine Planning Group has launched its Mobile COVID-19 Vaccination Initiative.
The initiative aims to bring the vaccine to vulnerable populations, who may experience barriers to receiving the vaccine at a walk-in or drive-through clinics. Only those eligible for Phase 1B, Tier 1 (people age 70 and over) will be vaccinated at the mobile clinics.
The mobile clinics are "closed point-of-distribution" sites, meaning vaccination is not available to the public at the clinics.
Several local community organizations have come together to make the clinics possible, including Lewis and Clark Public Health, PureView Health Center, St. Peter's Health, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Care Van Program. The team worked with local organizations to coordinate the clinics and share the availability of vaccination appointments with their eligible residents or clients.
In addition to working with community partners, the planning group collaborated with Lewis and Clark County Epidemiologist Dorota Carpenedo to identify target areas for the mobile clinics based on US Census Data, which is reflected in a nationwide Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) database [data.cdc.gov]. The SVI is an online database that gives census tracts a social vulnerability score based on 15 data points, including but not limited to access to transportation, race/ethnicity, poverty level, and more.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies and public health departments are using the SVI for emergency preparedness and response activities to promote health equity and access.
The local planning group is using SVI data to help determine where mobile clinics may be the most effective strategy to reach vulnerable populations.
For example, the group will host a clinic at Rocky Mountain Development Council's Eagles Manor building on Friday, January 22.
The Eagles Manor census tract is located in an area of moderate to high vulnerability. Based on national data, a number of the data points included in the index correspond to a higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19 or increase the risk for becoming a COVID-19 hotspot.
The CDC has published information on social vulnerabilities and COVID-19 risk and prevalence [cdc.gov]. Data compiled in their October 2020 report shows that "poverty, crowded housing, and other community attributes associated with social vulnerability increase a community's risk for adverse health outcomes." While the study looked at risk from a county or community-wide perspective, it acknowledges that local public health departments and healthcare organizations should deploy efforts to prevent specific higher-risk areas from becoming COVID-19 hotspots, including prioritizing vaccine access.
The mobile clinics are part of a multi-pronged approach to vaccine distribution in Lewis and Clark County.
Local partners plan to host additional closed point-of-distribution mobile clinics in partnership with other community organizations and in other, rural Lewis and Clark County communities as vaccine supply becomes available.
The multi-pronged approach allows the planning group to identify ways to distribute the very limited vaccine supply, prioritizing efficiency, transparency, and safety. While the mobile clinics represent one strategy, the group also provides vaccination opportunities through other sites, including the Lewis and Clark Fairground Community POD.
The goal is to host the drive-through Community POD weekly based on vaccine availability. Other local vaccination efforts currently include but are not limited to: The National Federal Pharmacy Program, which is designated to vaccinate nursing home residents and staff; St. Peter's Health, which is hosting a clinic for primary care patients; Helena Indian Alliance, which is vaccinating local eligible American Indians; and the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs, which is vaccinating local eligible veterans.
The local planning group anticipates that additional clinics and vaccination opportunities will launch in the coming weeks and months if vaccine supply is available and as we move to future tiers/phases of the COVID-19 vaccination plan.
For additional information on local COVID-19 vaccination distribution, visit the COVID-19 Vaccination Hub at lccountymt.gov.