Photo: Sean Waltrous

By Elena Tate

Usually the term “pop-up” refers to an exceedingly trendy item that is only temporarily available for purchase at a specific location. But in our new normal of the pandemic, the concept is being utilized to offer Covid-19 vaccines to vulnerable people who might not otherwise be able to access them.

Here’s how YOU can bring a pop-up vaccination site to your neighborhood:

  1. Find a pharmacy who is willing to provide the vaccine doses, medical supplies staff able to perform the vaccinations. Go to the small “mom-and-pop” pharmacies and speak with the pharmacists.

  2. Find a location. Ideally, you can hold the event at the pharmacy, but if the pharmacy itself is too small, you may need to find a larger space. You will need to be able to safely socially distance while managing the flow of people getting vaccinated and those sitting for 15 minutes afterwards during the observation period. Some places to consider are community centers, event spaces and even yoga studios! This is also an opportunity to get more local business and community groups involved. You may also consider targeting a specific population, in which case you may want to try to bring the vaccine to their apartment complex or workplace.

  3. Find people who need vaccines. Who is having a difficult time booking appointments and making it to the mass vaccination sites on their own? What populations are under-represented in vaccination rates across the city? These are the people who will benefit the most from a vaccine pop-up. Take a look at the current eligibility guidelines for New York State. You may choose to tailor your event to any eligible group. You may target the elderly of a specific zip code or housing development. Or you could organize an event targeted to a specific category of essential worker such as hotel workers, or create outreach materials in a specific language.

  4. Reach out to people. Connect with organizations that already exist and have strong relationships in the neighborhood, like tenants’ associations, houses of worship, unions and mutual aid groups. Clinton Hill Fort Greene Mutual Aid has organized several successful vaccine pop-ups, making approximately 3,500 calls and booking more than 400 appointments. Tailoring your event can help you to reach people who may not get vaccinated otherwise. Instead of being presented with a confusing website they can’t navigate, people are getting a personalized phone call. Instead of an hours-long line, they are welcomed at their vaccination with a smile by someone who knows their name and speaks their language. Once that one person gets vaccinated, they tell their family, friends and co-workers. Those people then sign up, creating a ripple effect that benefits public health, especially for marginalized communities that may have a fear or distrust that must be overcome.

    Photo: Elena Tate
  5. Find people to volunteer. This is usually the easy part! Some vaccine pop-ups have had more than 100 people sign up to volunteer. Spread the word: Post on social media and tell your friends to tell their friends. Then assign tasks. You will need people to do outreach, make calls and book appointments. You will need people the day of the event to do intake and manage flow. You may want to have someone who gives out coffee and bagels to put people at ease. Some pop-ups have even organized to provide transportation.

  6. Crush the pandemic while building community. This year has been brutal for our city. People have been dying of not just the virus, but of loneliness. Organizing a vaccine pop-up in your neighborhood can help bring the community together for a great cause; getting the vulnerable vaccinated so they can take steps to return to a life free of fear and isolation.

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