With a healthy supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available in Knox County, but underwhelming demand at local clinics, health officials are getting creative with vaccination outreach efforts.
Knox County Health Officer Dr. Alan Stewart says in the first five days of widespread eligibility of those 16 and over, he has not seen the dramatic increase in traffic he hoped for at the health department’s clinic, located at 1548 S. Hart Street Rd.
While he hoped the clinic would be “flooded,” it was more like a steady trickle of residents seeking the vaccine.
Though Stewart has encountered some individuals who say they are unwilling to be vaccinated, he has found that many others simply don’t have easy access to local clinics.
“There are a lot of people who are receptive to the vaccine but would not necessarily register and come into one of our clinics,” Stewart said.
So the clinics, he says, are finding ways to take the vaccine to residents — planning everything from in-school vaccinations to developing partnerships with local organizations to vaccinate the homeless and other under served populations.
Good Samaritan this week begins its vaccination work at all four local school systems, going onsite to offer vaccines to all staff members as well as students age 16 and over.
Hospital staff will administer the Pfizer vaccine — the only one approved for those under age 18 — to faculty and students, beginning today at Lincoln High School
On Wednesday, volunteers from the clinic will make their third trip to the Knox County Jail — this time to vaccinate anyone age 18 and over.
Thursday, the Knox County Health Dept. is partnering with Vincennes University to provide an on-campus vaccine clinic for faculty, staff, students and anyone living in the surrounding neighborhoods on the north side of town.
“This is really important for the north end,” Lankford said, noting that many community members don’t have reliable transportation to go across town during regular clinic hours.
The VU clinic will be open 2-6 p.m. at the Robert E. Green Activities Center, 120 W. Harrison St.
And Friday, Stewart says the Hart Street clinic is anticipating 150 migrant workers to be bussed in for vaccinations.
“Vaccinating the migrant population is going to be very important because they’re coming in from so many other areas,” said Stewart.
The health department also plans to partner with Thursday Church, 218 Main St., to offer vaccines to those who visit the church’s food pantry.
“We’ve really been putting our heads together,” said Lankford, about the wide net health officials are casting to vaccinate as many residents as quickly as possible in order to outrun more virulent strains of the virus that now have a stronghold across much of the U.S.
The health department, too, is planning a mass vaccination event scheduled from noon to 7 p.m. on April 18; they hope to see 600 people roll up their sleeves that day for the Moderna vaccine.
“The state is requiring us to have a mass vaccination day, and it must be at a time when most people aren’t normally working, which is why we chose a Sunday,” Lankford said.
The vaccination event, held outside the Hart Street Road clinic, will feature food trucks, raffles, and balloon art, among other things.
Lankford said already they have received raffle items from a number of local businesses, like a free Dairy Queen ice cream cake, free massages, and items from Attic Salt Boutique, among goodies.
Stewart says, aside from the special events, health officials are also compiling a list of individuals in the area who are currently homebound to try to make plans to vaccinate those residents.
Stewart and Lankford, too, have even gone so far as to vaccinate patrons inside of local gas stations and convenience stores to ensure unused doses of vaccine aren’t discarded.
“On three different occasions now we’ve had leftover shots at the end of the day, and they’re getting harder and harder to use up,” Stewart said.
So far, more than 9,667 people in Knox County have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Another 11,149 have received their first dose.
The health department’s regular clinic hours remain 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday. It’s also open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.