Indy launches neighborhood vaccine clinics in underserved areas

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — COVID-19 vaccinations are going into the arms of Hoosiers living in underserved areas as part of the city government’s push to get shots to as many people as possible.

On Friday, the first of what will be four new vaccine clinics across the city opened. A big partnership is assuring the people who are most-impacted by COVID-19 have access to vaccine.

“Historically underserved populations have borne a disproportionate share of the health and economic consequences of the pandemic. And through programs like our Spanish-language vaccine appointment call center this weekend, or the COVID Community Ambassador program, we have tried to remove barriers for these groups to access the vaccine. We are in this together. For our city to truly thrive, it means every neighborhood must also thrive.”

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett

The Marion County Public Health Department has partnered with several churches and local health entities to launch a total of four vaccination clinics throughout April.

Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the department, said in a Thursday video news conference that the clinics are “aimed at addressing disparities that have been exacerbated in traditionally underserved communities during this COVID-19 crisis.”

“With these new efforts, it is our aim to ensure those most impacted by the COVID-19 virus have access to the lifesaving protections offered by the vaccine, as well as the community-based support and resources they may need. For now, we all must continue to wear a mask, wash our hands, and watch our distance if we are to enjoy long-term economic recovery and return to the activities we love and have missed over the last year.”

Dr. Virginia Caine, director, Marion County Public Health Department

The first clinic launched at the Eastern Star Church Care Center. According to Jeffrey A. Johnson Sr., the senior pastor, there are 150 vaccinations Friday and 150 on Saturday, and all the slots are filled; he is beyond thrilled. “We’re very very excited that IU Health partnered up with Eastern Star Church so that we can get the vaccines in particular neighborhoods like this one, in Arlington Woods, 46218, in Indianapolis, to at least give access to the vaccine getting to Black and brown people in Marion County.”

Johnson said it’s important for the community that churches get involved. “There’s a trust factor there. So, here’s church that people trust and have leaned on and have partnered with, collaborated with. We know how to reach these people. We’ve proven we can reach Black and brown people in these particular communities. So, why would not these health officials the resources and the sources that are already in the community.”

Marion County Public Health Department will have the “mobile vaccine clinics” with these organizations:

  • Eastern Star Church with IU Health | Friday and Saturday, March 26 and 27. 
  • Light of the World Christian Church, New Era Church, Greater Shepherd Baptist Church, Providence AME Church and Witherspoon Presbyterian Church with IU health | date to be announced.
  • The Consulate of Mexico in Indianapolis with Eli Lilly | date to be announced.
  • Riverside Park with Eli Lilly & Flanner House | date to be announced.

County health officials said organizations doing these vaccine clinics will reach out directly to people in neighborhoods with specific instructions on how to register. For more information, call the health department at (317) 221-5500.

IU Health officials said they are working on additional clinics planned at Light of the World Christian Church, St. Monica Catholic Church, La Plaza and the Mexican Consulate in Indianapolis.

“We have made remarkable progress in building trust and confidence that the approved COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective. Now we must focus on eliminating barriers to getting the vaccine, especially in our underserved communities and populations that have been hit hardest by the virus.”

Dr. Karen Amstutz, vice president of community health at IU Health

According to a news release sent last week to News 8 , IU Health will organize free rides to any vaccine clinic in Indiana. In a separate news release sent Friday to News 8, IU Health said it is also working to make the vaccine registration process as easy as possible and is partnering with congregational and neighborhood organizations to help register community members for the vaccine using the state’s vaccine scheduling platform.

Also according to the release sent Friday, IU Health is partnering Saturday with several community organizations and the Marion County Public Health Department to host a vaccination hotline for Spanish-speaking Hoosiers. Dozens of Spanish-speaking IU Health team members and clinicians are volunteering for the hotline.

“We know language access has been another barrier for some Hoosiers who want to get the vaccines,” says Lori Satterfield, community benefit program manager at IU Health. “In addition to working with our community partners and leveraging our own multi-lingual physicians and team members, we’ve made sure every IU Health vaccine clinic has certified medical interpreters to help with any language barriers.”