On Monday, a mobile vaccine clinic from Harborview Medical Center was in Federal Way, delivering COVID-19 shots at the Pacific Islander Community Association headquarters.
The roving clinics are a new addition to the lineup of vaccine options in King County, made possible by a $1 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
The grant will allow the medical teams to administer about 20,000 shots to people in vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities, said Dr. Lisa Chew, a leader of the Harborview and UW Medicine project.
“This has allowed us to jump-start and develop the infrastructure for our mobile vaccine program and to serve, in a meaningful way, communities disproportionately impacted by the virus,” she said.
Earlier in the pandemic, the Allen Foundation provided $2 million to help Harborview/UW Medicine establish mobile coronavirus testing units, some of which are now pivoting to provide vaccine instead, Chew said.
The donations are part of more than $12 million in COVID-related grants to organizations in the Pacific Northwest — including hard-hit arts groups and restaurants — from the foundation created by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his sister Jody Allen.
“As vaccination availability turns the tide in this pandemic, the foundation continues its commitment to improving and expanding equitable access to COVID-19 resources,” Lara Littlefield, director of the foundation’s science and technology partnerships, said in a statement.
The grant also includes funding to partner with community leaders and organizations to provide accurate information about vaccines and help build trust in communities that have experienced historical injustices and lack of health care.
Bringing vaccine education and access directly to King County’s most impacted communities will be critical to reducing hospitalizations, lowering infection rates, and bringing an end to the pandemic, Littlefield added.
The idea behind mobile clinics is to reach people who might have a hard time navigating online vaccine appointment systems or getting to pharmacies or other locations for the shots, Chew said. Events so far have ranged from vaccinating 250 or more people at a single location, to smaller groups of fewer than 100.
The project is working with other vaccine providers, including King County, to identify and target “vaccine deserts.” It will also revisit sites, like the Pacific Islander Community Association, to provide shots for people who were originally hesitant but have changed their minds, Chew said.