The Biden administration on Saturday held its first ever “Nationwide Vaccination Day,” running vaccine pop-ups across 21 cities in a bid to boost vaccination rates in the Black community.
The event was part of the White House’s broader “We Can Do This” COVID-19 Vaccine Public Education Campaign. Community organizations such as the Black Nurse Collaborative, Top Ladies of Distinction and 100 Black Men of America partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide free vaccinations to community members.
Pop-up vaccination sites went up in cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Miami and D.C. These events were held in order to address racial health care inequities, according to a release from the White House.
According data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than 10 percent of eligible Black individuals have received a bivalent booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. About 16 percent of eligible white individuals and 22 percent of eligible Asians have received a booster, though the CDC noted these rates are likely an undercount due to a lack of demographic data.
A Biden administration official told The Hill that part of the motivation for these events was to educate people on their eligibility for further immunization, acknowledging that new boosters and guidance may have caused some confusion.
Just last week, the federal officials released new guidance on vaccine eligibility, making most people eligible to receive a single dose of the bivalent booster regardless of vaccine status.
However, somewhat convoluted exceptions were included for high-risk groups such as the elderly, young children and certain immunocompromised individuals.
People who showed up to receive vaccinations over the weekend were not required to provide identification, proof of insurance or proof of prior vaccination.
The vaccine pop-up in D.C. was held at the New Bethel Baptist Church, where members of the Black Nurse Collaborative provided doses of the bivalent booster dose to willing recipients.
“We are here because as Black nurses, we understand the impact that COVID has had on all of our communities, but particularly the black and brown community with the health disparities that we experienced,” Meedie Bardonille, founder and president of Black Nurse Collaborative, told The Hill.
A small but steady flow of locals walked into the New Bethel Baptist Church parking lot on Saturday, with many lured in by the infographic buses intermittently driving around the Shaw neighborhood of D.C. A small group of anti-vaccine protestors also stood outside the vaccination site.
According to Bardonille, the overarching reason that people cited for getting a vaccine that day was simply their desire to stay healthy.
Among those who received a booster on Saturday was Maria Hall, who told The Hill that she had been meaning to get a booster for some time but hadn’t gotten around to it. Seeing the event as she walked past the church motivated her to get the booster dose.
Dexter Nutall, reverend of New Bethel Baptist, said he hoped the event on Saturday sets a precedent for future community outreach.
“This kind of provides a precedent for us to ensure that whether we’re talking about COVID or whether we’re talking about the flu or whether we’re talking about the common cold or whether we’re talking about mental health, that there is a portal of access for people to be able to reach. And as a trusted community stakeholder, we want to be part of that,” Nutall said.