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Pop-Up Vaccination Site For The Homeless Opens In Downtown San Diego

Medical professionals administer COVID-19 vaccines outside of Father Joe's Vi...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Medical professionals administer COVID-19 vaccines outside of Father Joe's Village on February 11th, 2021.

The courtyard of Father Joe's in downtown San Diego's East Village was busy Thursday as 200 vaccines were distributed to people who are homeless. The effort was the first in a series of pop-up vaccination sites, meant to reach people in San Diego facing housing insecurity.

Dr. Jeffrey Norris, Chief Medical Officer at Father Joe's Villages, explained that the vaccine site was created following weeks of outreach with the community.

Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

“There’s educational materials that are being provided, individualized coaching, we have staff from Father Joe’s that have been educated on the vaccine and that are doing 1-on-1 counseling if necessary,” Dr. Norris said. “We’ve been working on this education plan for weeks now.”

The pop-up site is currently serving only those deemed eligible by the county — health care providers and people 65 and older.

That included 70-year-old Anita Mendoza, who lives in supportive housing at Father Joe’s.

Photo caption:

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Anita Mendoza, 70, receives the first dose of her vaccine outside of Father Joe's downtown on February 11th, 2021.

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“She had a real light hand, I didn’t feel the shot,” said Mendoza, who moments earlier had received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

Mendoza said she hadn’t been outside except to buy groceries for almost a year, as members of her own family in other parts of the country contracted COVID-19. She said a critical reason she got the vaccine was because access to it was right outside her door.

“I can’t walk that far,” she told KPBS. “When they said it was going to be in the courtyard, I was really happy. To go to Petco Park, we don’t have a car no more. So to go and stand in line for three hours I wasn’t able to do it. I’m glad it hit close to home where I could do it.”

The pop-up vaccination site at Father Joe’s will be every two weeks moving forward in collaboration with the group Champions for Health.

Dr. Norris said the key to successfully vaccinating this population will be to make sure that people with housing instability come back for that crucial second dose.

“We’re giving the appointment for that four-week mark right now, in hand, before they leave to ensure they've at least got that solidified. They know they need to come back and they’re educated on that,” Dr. Norris said.

For Anita Mendoza, the choice to get vaccinated, especially when it was right outside her home, a luxury few others have, was clear. Reaching other people without as much proximity to the vaccine will be the ongoing challenge.

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