Hamilton, Middletown work to vaccinate high-risk homeless population against COVID-19

The Butler County General Health District held a drive through COVID-19 vaccination clinic Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at Butler County Fairgrounds in Hamilton. Nearly 75 workers and volunteers administered 1500 vaccines during the event.  NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
The Butler County General Health District held a drive through COVID-19 vaccination clinic Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at Butler County Fairgrounds in Hamilton. Nearly 75 workers and volunteers administered 1500 vaccines during the event. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Inoculating the homeless with the novel coronavirus vaccine is critical to public health, local officials who help that population said.

“I think because of the transient nature of the people that we serve, they are coming into contact with folks all over the place and I think the opportunity for them to be carriers or for them to get sick themselves is pretty high in their world,” said Dave Hood, executive director of Serve City in Hamilton.

More than 3.1 million Ohioans have started the vaccination process, and more than half of those are completely inoculated with one of the three FDA-authorized vaccines.

All Ohioans 16 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine beginning Monday. If vaccination appointments are open, Gov. Mike DeWine said those 16 and older can be scheduled, but only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for 16- and 17-year-olds.

Many people who are homeless are older adults or have underlying medical conditions and may also be at an increased risk for severe illness, according to the Centesr for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hood said the city of Hamilton Health Department has been “incredibly responsive” to Serve City, coming to the facility to vaccinate residents and staff.

Of the 45 residents at Serve City, 36 are fully vaccinated, Hood said.

Hope House in Middletown has also received “a pretty good turnout” with homeless residents taking the vaccine, said Scott Miller, nurse with the Middletown shelter.

“About half to three-fourths have actually approached us asking to get vaccinated, which is pretty good among a population that generally has a distrust of anything related to vaccination and medical processes,” Miller said.

He said there is misinformation spread among the homeless population. But Hope House and Serve City work to provide information and education to their residents.

“Then they become more open to say, ‘Hey, maybe this will be something that would be good for me,’” Miller said.

At Hope House, only two people did not return for the second shot, and Serve City has seen 75 percent of residents stay or return for the second shot.

Brandon Saurber, Hamilton spokesman, said the city’s health department partners with organizations that work with vulnerable populations, like the Hamilton YWCA, which also runs a women’s shelter, rehabilitation facilities like Modern Psychology and Wellness, and mental health facilities like Center Haven.

Every Thursday, the Hamilton Health Department is at the Butler County Fairgrounds for a mass vaccination clinic. Hundreds of Hamilton residents have been vaccinated by the city health department, Saurber said.

The health department is changing how it schedules vaccinations moving forward. For more information, visit www.hamilton-oh.gov/health. Sauber said the city hopes to vaccinate more than 2,000 next Thursday.

The Butler County General Health District runs clinics at the fairgrounds on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Scheduling information for Butler County is at health.bcohio.us and Middletown at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. Pharmacies for certain Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid locations can be accessed at their websites.

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