By Tom Travis
A new community collaboration is bringing Covid vaccines, water, meals and other resources to Flint neighborhoods.
The Greater Flint Health Coalition (GFHC) has created a partnership with Genesee Community Health Center (GCHC), the Genesee County Community Action Resource Department’s (GCCARD) Meet Up and Eat Up program, and the United Way of Genesee County (UWGC) to provide neighborhood-based COVID-19 vaccine opportunities for residents.
Upcoming mobile vaccination units:
- Thursday, Sept. 9 at Carpenter Road and Clio Road and surrounding neighborhoods 12 noon to 3 p.m.
- Thursday, Sept. 16 at Atherton Road and Dort Highway and surrounding neighborhoods 12 noon to 3 p.m.
- Saturday, Sept. 18 at Saginaw Street and Home Avenue and surrounding neighborhoods 12 noon to 3 p.m.
If groups or organizations are interested in having a mobile COVID-19 outreach in your area they can contact Nichole Smith-Anderson at the GFHC at email@example.com or by calling (810)232-2228.
Each vaccine mobile unit is staffed with nurses and outreach workers from the partner organizations to provide education about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. Both Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines are available in each mobile unit.
Greater Flint Health Coalition community health workers from Genesee CHAP (Community Health Access Program) are also present on each trip to connect residents to other community resources and support services if needed, according to a press release from The Greater Flint Health Coalition.
Flint continues to lag in vaccination rates
As of Aug 31 Genesee County is 45.6 per cent vaccinated (for the population age 16 and above) according to the Genesee County Health Department vaccination dashboard. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), at 74 per cent of the U.S. population has at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. The CDC website further stated that as of Aug. 27 the positivity rate in COVID-19 tests is 9.6 per cent for Genesee County.
According to Our World Data 10.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Michigan and 50.2 per cent of Michigan’s population, or 5.04 million individuals, have received at least one dose.
The CDC website also notes that 19.8 per cent of Genesee County population is “living in poverty”. The mobile vaccination units traveling throughout the greater Flint area are especially targeting low-income areas.
On Sept. 2 the Genesee County Health Department adjusted their mask mandate to include pre-kindergarten and grades 7 through 12. The GCHD said that until Genesee County transmission is categorized as “moderate” by the CDC this mask mandate will remain. The added grades mask mandate order will go into effect on Tuesday, Sept 7.
“We see sad experiences every day” — vaccination mobile unit nurse
EVM talked with two of the nurses traveling with the mobile unit this week, Blanche May and Mary Korbett. May, 68, a registered nurse for 21 years and a graduate of Flint Northern high school, Mott Community College, and Eastern Michigan University, said she has gone on nearly 20 mobile vaccine unit trips this summer.
May commented the mobile unit staff see “sad experiences every day.” She said they often encounter children without safe water for drinking. Recalling one recent experience, May said they were in a Flint neighborhood and saw a little boy with his dog and the dog was panting.
May said they found a container and rinsed it out and poured some bottled water into it and asked the little boy if they could give his dog a drink. The little boy took the bowl of water and began drinking it himself. The nurses rushed to stop the little boy from drinking it and told him it was for the dog. The little boy told them he didn’t have water available at his house.
May said that she was up until 2 a.m. thinking about that little boy and so many others in Flint who are without safe drinking water. May said, “It just really bothered me thinking about that.”
May added that they come across hungry children every day. The mobile vaccine unit workers will try to find the children’s parents and ask if they can give them a meal. The Meet Up and Eat Up vehicle travels behind the mobile vaccination unit and gives meals out to anyone, even those who are not interested in receiving the vaccine.
May and Korbett said they now take bottled water with them on every mobile vaccination unit trip.
Korbett is a registered nurse for more than 30 years who said she’s in her “mid-60s.” Originally from Pittsburgh and a nursing school graduate from Western University in Pennsylvania, Korbett remarked, “We just feel like it’s a privilege to be out in the community. It also gives us an opportunity to inform people of the services that are offered by the Genesee Community Health Center. A lot of people don’t know that we have primary care, behavior health, substance abuse and medication management services.”
Representing the C.H.A.P. Children’s Healthcare Access Program, Ivory Miller has been on numerous Mobile Vaccine Unit trip this summer. He said, “Honestly I feel bad getting paid to do this because I love this job so much.”
As Miller described his job, “I bridge people with services, from getting pack-n-plays and diapers for children all the way to meals for the whole family.” Miller just started with C.H.A.P. in February and previously worked at GCCARD and worked for 15 years with the Genesee County Youth Corporation with homeless and runaway teens.
Miller described his experience of going out on the mobile units, saying that some places there are “hard nosed” people who don’t want the vaccine and other places people “jump off their porch pulling up their sleeves to get the vaccine.” Miller added, “You have to have thick skin to do this but you also have to be genuine. If you’re genuine in your approach it will be good.”
Updated information about COVID-19 vaccinations can be found at GFHC website www.gfhc.org/about/covid-19 and also at the Genesee County Health Department website www.gchd.us/coronavirus.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.