Mobile clinic hopes to close gap in COVID vaccine distribution

Hugo Balta

The Dept. of Public Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard reports that 30-percent of the Hispanic-Latino population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, the lowest percentage for any ethnic group in Massachusetts.

CIC Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Cataldo Ambulance converted New Life Christian Church in East Boston into a mobile vaccine clinic in the hope of improving those numbers.

183 people, including many Hispanic-Latino residents, were registered to receive their second dose last Friday, reported Boston 25 News.

“Although there’s a lot of information on the internet, they may not necessarily be looking at the right information. They’re listening to the wrong sources,” said Patricia Sobalvarro, Executive Director of Agencia ALPHA.

Sobalvarro’s organization has been going into neighborhoods, urging people to get vaccinated; work that has become increasingly difficult.

While many have attributed this disparity to vaccine hesitancy and mistrust of the health system, researchers have found that most Americans, irrespective of race, do in fact want a shot. Unfortunately, many people — especially in low-income, marginalized communities — have an exceedingly hard time finding one.

The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) finds part of the problem in reaching Hispanic-Latinos is in part, due to the structure of Boston’s vaccination campaigns.

The state has not set up mass vaccination sites in some of the communities most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 like East Boston, Chelsea, or Hyde Park. In Chelsea — a city just outside of Boston — only 7% of Latino residents have received vaccines, even though Latino people are 68% of the population. 

Many individuals in these neighborhoods cannot easily travel to the mass vaccination sites due to disability, work schedules, or lack of transportation, according to AAMC. Moreover, obtaining appointments for the mass vaccination sites requires internet access, health literacy, comfort with online registration platforms, and a considerable amount of luck.

Mass General Brigham has reportedly held 23 mobile vaccine sites since the beginning of April.

The mobile clinic will visit 12 neighborhoods, including Allston, Brighton, Chinatown, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Mattapan, Roslindale, Roxbury, South Boston, and South End.

Photo Credit: A volunteer for GOTVax, an organization focused on bringing vaccines to hard-hit communities, administers a vaccine to a resident of a Boston Housing Authority building in an under-resourced neighborhood. Courtesy: Alister Martin, MD, MPP