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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Father Joe’s Prepares To Administer Vaccines To Unsheltered San Diegans

Father Joe's Villages homeless shelter at 1501 Imperial ave. in this Feb. 1, ...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: Father Joe's Villages homeless shelter at 1501 Imperial ave. in this Feb. 1, 2021 photo.

Homeless services provider Father Joe's Villages is preparing for a large-scale COVID-19 vaccination effort for its clients once they become eligible under the state's vaccination rollout, its leaders announced Monday.

Reported by Max Rivlin-Nadler , Video by Matthew Bowler

Father Joe's Villages will adopt a multi-level approach to ensure people in need have access to vaccinations, including vaccination events offered in congregate living shelters, in collaboration with San Diego County. The organization's plan also includes residential, case management, day center and outreach teams providing education on vaccination to people living in its housing programs and to those on the street to encourage individuals to get vaccinated.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

Curious how the vaccine rollout is going in San Diego County? KPBS is tracking the progress.

"Father Joe's Villages is dedicated to supporting the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccination to the people we serve," said Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO at Father Joe's. "By prioritizing the health of our neighbors experiencing homelessness, we are creating a San Diego where the lives of all residents are valued and worth protecting, regardless of race, creed or socio-economic background. Father Joe's Villages will continue to advocate for a process that increases access to the vaccine with compassion and dignity."

The organization's clients fall under the state's Phase 1B Tier Two as part of congregate settings with outbreak risk along with incarcerated people. Also in that tier are people at risk of exposure in the transportation and logistics, industrial, commercial, residential, and sheltering facilities and services and critical manufacturing industries. It is the next tier to become eligible under the state's plan.

According to the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, people experiencing homelessness are at high risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus and are more likely to experience negative health outcomes.

"For folks who, for whatever reason, have trouble using the internet or have chaos in their lives, or are, for example, experiencing homelessness, signing up for and getting an appointment for a vaccine is certainly a challenging endeavor," Dr. Jeffrey Norris, the Chief Medical Officer at Father Joe's Villages, told KPBS.

The vaccines will be paired up with regular food distribution programs, as well as other outreach events, but the logistics of storing and administering the vaccine will make this work tricky, warns Norris.

"Once you stick a needle into the vial, to draw out a vaccine, you have to use that entire vial within six hours, so that sets up a lot of challenges for setting up a mass vaccination event where you don’t know who’s going to show or how many people will show up," he said.

The organization has launched a special COVID-19 Vaccination Fund to cover the increased costs of their critical vaccination, including increased staffing hours across its programs, equipment to store vaccines such as dry ice, personal protective equipment, increased uncovered medical expenses and incentives to encourage clients to get vaccinated.

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