Clinic vaccinates some of CU’s homeless population
February 23, 2021
As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out to eligible groups, advocates for the homeless community have created an opportunity for those individuals to receive a vaccine through an on-site clinic in Champaign.
The C-U at Home agency partnered with Continuum of Care to pursue this agenda in order to aid vulnerable populations during the pandemic.
“There was the understanding that everyone would want a vaccine, and we really wanted to advocate to make sure that people experiencing homelessness had the opportunity to be vaccinated because they are highly vulnerable to COVID-19,” said Thomas Bates, the Continuum of Care coordinator.
Champaign County’s Continuum of Care service provides relief and support to the homeless population and attempts to end homelessness with various federal funds and intervention systems to help these individuals get back on their feet.
According to Bates, there have already been two clinics that took place on Feb. 9 and Feb. 11. Around 30 people were able to receive the vaccines during these initial clinics.
The clinic came together within 24 hours even though the group has been advocating for several weeks to get these vaccines for the community. Bates sent a letter to the public health administrator for Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, in early January and kept contacting them for updates in order to help coordinate the event.
“I know that we will have another clinic 28 days after the initial one for the second doses because we did use a two-dose vaccine,” Bates said. “I think there will probably be other opportunities for initial vaccinations depending on the demand which was quite good for the first two. So hopefully we’ll be able to organize or advocate for more soon.”
The pandemic presented many challenges for the homeless community since many emergency shelters across the country were on the rise of shutting down due to the severity of the virus. Champaign County had a year-round shelter only for families, and seasonal shelters for individuals.
C-U at Home was planning to start a year-round shelter in November 2021 to provide housing relief for all community members, but COVID pushed up these plans.
These emergency shelters were at high risk for spreading the virus because of the large congregations that occurred in these settings which is why many shelters were limited or shut down. The population is highly vulnerable to the virus, and as a result, the vaccine was highly requested for the community in order to prevent further risks.
“Vaccinations for the homeless community are very important because homeless services are frequently given in congregate settings, which could promote the spread of COVID-19 infections,” said Robert Davies, the emergency preparedness coordinator. “Since many homeless people are older adults or have one or more underlying health conditions, they may also be at higher risk for serious illness.”
As of right now, there is no definite date for future COVID-19 vaccine clinics, but it is currently being coordinated along with the follow-up sessions for those waiting on their second dose.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article said that Champaign County did not have a shelter for individual homeless people. Champaign has run seasonal shelters for individuals in the past, though they were not year-round. Additionally, C-U at Home is not presently planning a shelter for Nov. 2021. The Daily Illini regrets these errors.