Posted on April 2, 2021 | Written by Vanessa Wasta
“Thank you for coming. We thought we had been forgotten.”
- Baltimore City resident
Imagine it’s your turn to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but you have no reliable transportation, and it’s difficult for you to walk or to wait in line for long periods. Navigating the myriad vaccine registration websites is challenging, but for you, it’s impossible because you don’t have internet access.
The potentially life-saving vaccine is within reach, but to many Baltimore City residents, it seems unattainable. That’s why Johns Hopkins’ Katie O’Conor, M.D., Mobile/Community Vaccination Clinics director, and Jeanne Hitchcock, J.D., special adviser to the vice president for local government, community and corporate affairs, are leading efforts to bring vaccines to the doorsteps of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
“COVID-19 is disproportionately taking the lives of Black and Hispanic individuals in our communities, and we have to find ways to bring vaccines to them,” says O’Conor, a Baltimore native who leads a Johns Hopkins Medicine task force aiming to solve vaccine equity issues. “We’re employing a very focused approach to serve people of color and other marginalized communities in our city.”
Staff members and volunteers are setting up clinics at various city locations to provide COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and people with disabilities. O’Conor and her team start their day at 8:30 a.m., setting up a comprehensive clinic that is ready to vaccinate residents by 10 a.m. and that runs late into the day. They are ramping up to provide three or more clinics each week.
“Thank you for coming,” said a city resident at one of the program’s clinics. “We thought we had been forgotten.” O’Conor says this was a reminder to all those serving at the clinic that their work matters and is making a difference.
Some of the clinics are operated under a partnership with the Baltimore City Health Department and other health care partners. Soon, O’Conor will launch vaccination clinics at city faith-based organization sites, and infectious disease expert Kathleen Page, M.D., is setting up clinics in partnership with Hispanic communities and groups.