With so many sites, COVID-19 vaccines are more in reach than ever, but the potentially life-saving shot can seem out of reach to many who don’t speak English, or have transportation issues, or can’t get time off work to get the vaccine and deal with the side effects.
To help bridge those gaps, Trafalgar-based WindRose Health Network is taking vaccines and translators to Central Indiana residents via a mobile clinic.
WindRose leaders knew making the vaccine as accessible as possible was key to getting more people vaccinated among underserved populations, said Robin Musial, a registered nurse and office manager at WindRose.
Demand for the vaccine has declined significantly in the past few months, which is the main reason why WindRose is taking the shot mobile. At its peak, WindRose’s Edinburgh vaccine clinic saw 80 people a day five days a week. Now, it is seeing about 5 people a day, Musial said.
The mobile clinic made stops at Johnson County Public Library branches in Franklin, Trafalgar and White River Township, McDonalds in Edinburgh and the Driftside Mobile Home Community.
But the Johnson County clinics have not been well-attended so far. Fewer than 10 people made appointments for each stop at local libraries, Musial said.
Several clinics are scheduled in Columbus, Morgantown and at the Indiana Chin Baptist Church on the southside of Indianapolis, as well as at the Morgan County Fair in August.
With health clinics in Franklin, Trafalgar, Hope and two on the southside of Indianapolis, health care leaders are in touch with hesitancy among both small town residents and minority populations, Musial said.
Lack of accurate information about the vaccine and fear of side effects have made some put off the vaccine or avoid getting it, especially people under age 40, she said.
Among primarily Hispanic communities, there has also been a concern that no one who speaks Spanish will be available to answer their questions or address their fears that vaccinators might question their immigration status. That’s why WindRose is bringing an interpreter from SuCasa, a Columbus-based nonprofit serving the Latino community, to help remove that language barrier and build trust in the vaccines, Musial said.
Karla Ruacho, of SuCasa, was available to answer questions and ease fears, as a trusted person who has contact with the Latino community in Drifitside and Edinburgh. Many of those who came to the Driftside clinic knew and trusted Ruacho or lived in the trailer park, they said.
“We are close to the community and they feel safe,” Ruacho said.
Two clinics Thursday in Edinburgh were second visits to McDonalds and Driftside, so most of the vaccines given were second doses. A few people also came out for their first doses after hearing about the clinic. About 40 new doses were given out on Thursday, Musial said.
Any new dose counts, as Edinburgh’s vaccine uptake lags behind surrounding communities. Just 37% of eligible residents in the Edinburgh zip code are fully vaccinated, according to Indiana Department of Health data. When compared to surrounding communities that’s strikingly low. In nearby Franklin and Shelbyville, nearly 50% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated. In Columbus, 57% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.
Across the state, small towns and rural communities are lagging behind large metropolitan areas, state data shows. In those communities, hesitancy is higher, but access is also lower.
“I don’t know if it is their beliefs or something else. We had the older folks who we couldn’t keep away, but there is hesitancy among this younger group,” Musial said.
Edinburgh resident Sara Casdro and her son, Brandon Vasquez, saw past the misinformation their friends have fallen victim to, they said.
Vasquez, 14, said his friends have circulated some wild conspiracy theories, but he doesn’t believe them because there is no proof.
“There are a lot of conspiracy theories about it,” Vasquez said. “This vaccine, what I think, is that it was made for the normal consumer, like the flu vaccine. I believe it is just like any other vaccine.”
Juan Galicia, 12, convinced his mother, Layla Galicia, to get the vaccine.
“Why not? The vaccine is proven to be safe,” Juan Galicia said.
Like many, Layla Galicia was initially concerned about side effects. After learning more about the vaccine, she decided getting it was the right thing to do, she said.
Misinformation and side effects are concerns state health officials are hearing about in communities across the state, they said during a briefing on Friday.
Rather than mass messaging, personal conversations with doctors and trusted community members seem to yield better results, said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, state medical examiner. Trusted friends at a dinner party or baseball game can also make a difference, she said.
Getting vaccinated continues to be important, especially as the more contagious Delta variant has become the dominant strain in the state, said Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner. The variant has shown up in 55% of all COVID-19 samples tested via genomic sequencing, she said.
The vaccine still remains effective against all COVID-19 variants, Box said. Though there have been 2,700 breakthrough cases among vaccinated individuals, nearly all who are hospitalized or died from COVID-19 are unvaccinated, she said.
Of the 2.9 million Hoosiers who are fully vaccinated, 132 have been hospitalized with COVID-19, and 47 have died from the virus, state data shows. That means the vaccine is about 93% effective at preventing severe illness among Hoosiers, Box said.
WindRose Health has clinics scheduled throughout July and August, with hopes to bring vaccines to any local business, church or school that wants to host one, Musial said.
“I’ve been offering it to churches and industries here in town (Edinburgh) but nobody has said yes. We are hoping someone will take us up on it,” she said. “We are more than happy to take us up on it if there is anyone who feels they have a need.”
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Here is a look at upcoming WindRose Health Network vaccine clinics.
To register for a free vaccine, call 317-680-9901 or visit scheduling.coronavirus.in.gov. Walk-ins are welcome.
WindRose Health – Edinburgh
Where: 911 E. Main Cross Street, Edinburgh.
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., July 12, 16, 19, 26 and 30.
Johnson County Public Library – White River Branch
Where: 1664 Library Blvd, Greenwood.
When: 3-7 p.m., Tuesday.
Johnson County Public Library – Trafalgar Branch
Where: 424 S Tower Dr, Trafalgar.
When: 3-7 p.m., Wednesday.
Johnson County Public Library – Franklin Branch
Where: 401 State St, Franklin.
When: 3-7 p.m., July 22.
Candlelight Village Clubhouse
Where: 3671 Candlelight Dr, Columbus/
When: 3-7 p.m., Thursday.
Wayne Township Volunteer Fire Department
Where: 849 E 450 S, Columbus.
When: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., July 21.
Columbus East High School
Where: 230 South Marr Road, Columbus
When: 4 – 7 p.m., July 27.
Rock Creek Elementary
Where: 13000 E 200 S, Columbus.
When: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., July 28.
Indiana Chin Baptist Church
Where: 8528 Madison Ave, Indianapolis.
When: 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., July 23.