Who: The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Metro Transit, the Metropolitan Council, and Minnesota Department of Transportation are partnering to bring mobile vaccination units to communities throughout the state of Minnesota. This provides an opportunity to create a more equitable distribution of vaccines, prioritize vulnerable and underserved communities, and reduce barriers to vaccination by going directly to communities.
- Focus communities for the mobile vaccination units will be under-resourced communities identified using the CDC Social Vulnerability Index (https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html). These communities include, but are not limited to: People of color; urban Native Americans; LGBTQI+; people with disabilities and unique health needs; people experiencing homelessness; people more comfortable getting vaccinated in a trusted community space versus a clinic or similar; and people without access to vehicles.
- Other target populations could include large employers such as factories, food processing, and/or employers of seasonal and migrant workers.
What: Metro Transit turned six underutilized transit buses into mobile vaccination units by removing seating and installing new equipment. The buses meet ADA requirements for transit vehicles. The mobile vaccination units are a highly targeted vaccine distribution strategy, intended to bring vaccines to people who would otherwise have a hard time getting vaccinated due to barriers, including transportation barriers, technology barriers, and geographic barriers. Mobile vaccination buses are not intended for mass vaccination events.
- Blue Cross is supporting operations, community outreach, as well as providing planning staff and the vaccinators for the vaccination events. Over 700 volunteers will be helping on the mobile vaccine units over the next several months.
- MDH is providing oversight to ensure the program aligns with the State’s equity goals and existing efforts.
Why: Mobile vaccination units are an important tool to reach people from every focus community, including people who might not otherwise have access to vaccination opportunities. Making the COVID-19 vaccine available to as many people as possible is an essential step to ending the pandemic. There has been a clear need and request from communities to use mobile vaccination units as another strategy to provide easy access to vaccines.
- All Minnesotans deserve access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines and other public health efforts, such as masks and social distancing, are some of our best tools against COVID-19 and our best chance to end the pandemic as soon as possible.
- Access to the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the greatest barriers standing in the way of equitable rates of vaccination in Minnesota.
- As vaccines are becoming more available, there are troubling racial inequities in vaccine distribution, particularly for Black and Latinx communities. Black and Latinx people are the least vaccinated racial groups in the nation and in Minnesota, which is why we are prioritizing these communities and other disproportionately affected communities by hosting vaccine events in trusted spaces identified by those communities.
- Minnesotans who live in an area with a high social vulnerability score have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and COVID-19 vaccinations are lagging in these areas.
When: The first buses will deploy on April 19 and will continue to operate Monday through Thursday throughout the summer.
How: We’re identifying locations for the mobile units by using various data sets, including social vulnerability data by zip code, census data, locations of existing vaccination clinics, and more, and gathering input from MDH equity leadership and trusted community partners. Places like agricultural workplaces, homeless encampments, or housing complexes where many people do not have transportation could be good locations for a mobile vaccination unit. In addition, we are implementing an online request portal available for community partners to request a mobile vaccination unit. The goal is to find gaps in vaccination efforts and effectively target hard-to-reach populations.
- Community outreach teams will work with trusted community partners to reach out to the community and register people for an appointment prior to the vaccination event. Blue Cross clinicians will vaccinate community members on the bus. There will be a limited number of appointments available for walk-in vaccination appointments for focus community members.
Where: The mobile units will be able to hold vaccination events across the state. Specific locations of the mobile vaccination units will not be broadly advertised because they are meant to be focused vaccination events for a specific community.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What does it mean that the mobile units reduce barriers to vaccine?
- These events are intended to happen in spaces where people live, work, and visit. Mobile units can help reduce transportation, geography, language, technology, and other barriers that may prevent people from accessing COVID-19 vaccines. All COVID-19 vaccine is free. IDs, proof of citizenship, and insurance are not required.
- Will there be people who speak languages other than English and information in other languages at the mobile vaccination unit?
- During the mobile vaccination unit event planning, host sites will be asked to identify specific language barriers and needs. The MDH team will work in partnership with the host site to prepare appropriate materials, translate specific resources, schedule multi-lingual staff when available, and request interpretation services. The mobile unit staff will also have access to Language Line and be able to print materials on the bus as needed.
- Will the mobile vaccination units be able to serve people with disabilities who use mobility devices like a walker, wheelchair, scooter, or crutches?
- Yes, all transit buses that were changed into mobile vaccination units meet ADA requirements for transit vehicles. Additionally, there will be a longer, attached ramp with a handrail for boarding the mobile vaccination units.
- Everyone that arrives for an appointment will be able to get the vaccine. To meet the needs of all people, please note that some vaccines may be administered outside of the bus in a covered area. All staff are trained and able to do this.
- How is MDH selecting mobile vaccination unit locations?
- We are using state demographic data, vaccination data, testing data; and input from trusted community partners, local public health, and MDH equity leadership.
- We are also encouraging communities and local organizations to provide input by requesting a mobile vaccination unit.
- How can my community sign up to host a mobile vaccination unit?
- Communities can request a mobile vaccination unit through the MDH Mobile Vaccine Clinic Registration Form (https://redcap-vac.web.health.state.mn.us/redcap/surveys/?s=XYWXWHE3EF). Completing this form does not guarantee a visit from a mobile unit. Requests will be prioritized using an equity-driven prioritization tool (looking at demographics and current vaccination locations) and will be balanced with the community program logistical needs and goals. Some community sites might not be best suited for a mobile vaccination unit, but rather a pop-up site or something similar.
- We encourage communities to connect with their local public health agency before requesting a mobile unit. We want to work with community partners that have a vaccination gap that can’t or isn’t already being filled by local public health (whether that be due to staffing capacity, transportation barriers, or other reasons).
- Community partners who are selected as a mobile vaccination site will be expected to conduct outreach with community prior to the mobile unit event. MDH will provide templates and resources to do this.
- How many people can the mobile unit vaccinate per day?
- Each mobile unit is prepared to vaccinate around 100-150 people each day, depending on travel time.
- Do you have to make an appointment?
- Yes, we will be working with community organizations to help promote the mobile vaccination unit and get people registered for appointments before it arrives. This helps us make sure all of the available vaccine doses are used and that people from the intended community are able to get vaccinated.
- There will be some walk-in spots available for members of the targeted community.
- How can community members sign up for an appointment at a mobile vaccine event?
- The community partner/organization will share information with how to sign-up once they know when a bus will be coming to their community. They will be reaching out to their community members in a targeted way.
- As of March 30, all Minnesotans 16 years of age and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine. The mobile units can vaccinate any Minnesotan 18 years of age and older.
- How can community members find out if there is, or will be, a mobile vaccination event near them?
- When a mobile unit is scheduled to come to a community site, community partners hosting the bus will reach out to their community to help schedule appointments, identify and plan for accessibility needs, and answer questions.
- What vaccine will be offered at the mobile vaccination units?
- All of the FDA-authorized vaccines available in Minnesota are effective and have impressive results in preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19.
- The vaccine offered will depend on our vaccine supply and allocation, as this can change weekly. We encourage all Minnesotans to take the vaccine that’s available to them, regardless of which type it is.
- Blue Cross and MDH want to ensure that people feel comfortable and confident in the vaccine they receive. If for any reason a person does not feel comfortable with the vaccine option available in our mobile units, volunteers will work to find other available options and appointments.
- For specific questions on vaccine type offered: The vaccination buses are equipped to handle either Johnson & Johnson or Moderna vaccine. The buses will have Moderna vaccine for the first week (week of April 19)