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With pop-ups for vulnerable communities, Seattle looks to turn the tide on inequity in COVID-19 vaccinations

Lucille Henry receives her first Covid-19 vaccine

With reporting and photography by Alex Garland

Tents are up tonight at Miller Playfield’s sport courts where the pickle ball players usually rule. It’s a COVID-19 vaccination pop-up just off 19th Ave E for the city’s deaf and blind communities.

Last week, CHS watched as seniors from the Central District traveled to 14th Ave’s First African Methodist Episcopal Church for another vaccination effort to reach a community that has so far been underrepresented in the state’s totals.

The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Seattle and across Washington hasn’t been exactly equitable but efforts in the city to help reach vulnerable communities are helping to address the inequities one pop-up at a time.

BIPOC elders gathered at FAME last week to receive their first dose of the Moderna vaccine administered by Seattle Fire at one of the pop-up vaccination clinics being hosted across the city.

Alesia Cannady was one of the group of grandmothers who came in together for the Thursday session.

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“We are ‘Women United’ a group of grandmothers raising our grandchildren. We heard about this vaccination effort through AARTH (African Americans Reach and Teach Health) based in Renton, who partnered with the Central Area Senior Center for this effort,” she said.

“What we’re really focusing on is equity and reaching those people that because of technology barriers or language barriers or different access issues, wouldn’t be able to get vaccinated at a mass vaccination site,” Kristen Tinsley, representative for Seattle Fire said. That’s what we’re trying to do is fill in those gaps.”

CHS reported here on Seattle’s plans to reach a fall 2021 70% vaccination level officials say will allow the area to successfully emerge from the COVID-19 crisis and the early challenges that have left many scrambling for appointments.

Before last week’s pop-up, Seattle Fire says 75% of their vaccination efforts have been in the BIPOC communities and 23% of those vaccinated identified as Black.

337 individuals were vaccinated last Thursday at FAME.

Pastor Carey Anderson was at the church for the pop-up and spoke with CHS about being a vaccination site. “This is what we do as a church family. This is what we’ve been doing since 1886,” Anderson said.

Winona Hollins-Hague, a board member with the Central Area Senior Center told CHS, “Our goal today was to make sure we called all the seniors we knew of because many of the seniors don’t have the access to technology so they wouldn’t have known this was happening had they not been called personally.”

As Cannady waited with her “Women United” group of grandmothers, talked about the painless nature of the vaccination and said she was “ready to get the sewing group together again.” Another grandmother with the group, Lillian Porter, said she is ready to see people again.

“I miss that interaction,” she said.

South End resident Lucille Henry was joined by her husband Prentice Henry as they got their vaccinations. “I’m thankful,” Lucille said. That sentiment was echoed by Jewel Foy and her husband Frank Foy. Frank told CHS, “When it first came out and they developed a vaccine, I said I wanted to be one of the first ones to get it because I think it’s safe. I’m 83 years old and I’m in that risky category. I’m going to keep wearing my mask, but I’m excited about seeing friends and family again.”

Officials continue to be concerned about inequities in who gets vaccinated and who so far has not.  The lowest vaccination rates continue to be found in the areas of Seattle and King County most hard-hit by COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Seattle Fire vaccinations teams are trying to turn around that distribution problem. The city says SFD crews will “continue providing first doses of the vaccine to Phase 1B, Tier 1 eligible older adults living in affordable housing buildings, and Phase 1B, Tier 1 eligible older adults, with a focus on Latinx communities living in West Seattle, South Park, and South Seattle.”

This week will bring more delays for many in the current first phase of vaccination eligibility as winter weather across the nation has disrupted distribution of the vaccines. For those waiting for “future phases,” the wait also continues.

Meanwhile, you’ll see efforts like the Swedish tents at Miller Playfield. Officials have tended to be quiet and a little secretive about efforts because of concerns about “line jumpers” — people cutting in and claiming eligibility under the honor systems typically used to determine qualifications. CHS was asked to keep last Thursday’s FAME pop-up on the down low because of those concerns. But we can tell you that he Swedish pop-up continues through Friday and could return in the future. We trust you’ll do the right thing and help Seattle recover by making sure the vaccine makes it to all the city’s vulnerable communities.

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15 days ago

The over 50 multi family thing makes it open season without any proof to line jump. Do it just by age.

14 days ago
Reply to  Nope

But if they did it just by age, there’s not enough capacity to serve the people over fifty in multigenerational households. We can’t vaccinate everyone over fifty yet. The honor system is imperfect, but there are honorable people who won’t line-jump.

catherine hillenbrand
catherine hillenbrand
14 days ago

we need lots more of these focused mini-efforts, and affirmative reaching out to people to get them to the sites.

Sue rithiprasart
Sue rithiprasart
10 days ago

I know people who dishonesty jump the line and tell their friends and their friends do the same. I am so ashamed with this people in my community. Please do something.