Weekly COVID-19 Vaccine Update for Homeless Service Providers – January 29, 2021
This week we’re focusing on preparing homeless service providers to hold and participate in vaccination events. Detailed conversations around data management and organizing vaccinations for congregate settings will strengthen homeless service systems’ approaches to vaccination. If your community needs support navigating these issues, please submit a request for technical assistance.
Next Steps for You to Take This Week
Engage in planning conversations with your public health partners. Determine when they expect to begin vaccinating people experiencing homelessness and staff.
Identify resources to support vaccination efforts (space, staffing, transportation, etc.).
Continue providing education and outreach to people experiencing homelessness and staff to increase vaccine confidence.
The Biden Administration has recently released the National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness. The National Strategy identifies homeless shelters as an example of a congregate setting that could facilitate the spread of infection, also emphasizing that “[b]ecause many people who are homeless are older adults or have underlying medical conditions, they may also be at increased risk for severe illness.”
The strategy affirms that the U.S. will “work to ensure that the vaccine is distributed quickly, effectively, and equitably, with a focus on making sure that high-risk and hard-to-reach communities are not left behind.” Supplies of the vaccine are currently limited, and states/localities are adopting a phased roll-out plan. In Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, congregate shelter staff are considered essential workers and should be vaccinated in Phase 1. People experiencing homelessness in congregate settings can be vaccinated at the same time as staff. If there is enough vaccine for all shelter participants, communities are encouraged to vaccinate everyone. However, if supplies remain scarce, shelters should work with public health partners to plan for prioritizing limited doses within shelters.
With the data available, local Continuums of Care (CoC) and Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) Lead Agencies can take steps to educate local decision-makers about the importance of vaccine prioritization for people experiencing homelessness and the degree to which their current plan may exclude subpopulations or those living in specific situations. Data can also be used to help prepare public health partners for vaccination events. Shelter data can be used to identify how many people residing in a shelter qualify to be vaccinated under local criteria.
To support our goal of equitable distribution of the vaccine to people experiencing homelessness, this week’s products focus on the logistics of bringing the vaccine to people residing in shelters or, alternately, bringing people to the vaccine. Recognizing that increased rates of transmission occur in congregate settings, specific attention is paid to vaccination among people living in these locations. Guidance is forthcoming on best practices in providing access to vaccinations for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness.
Public health partners and CoC leaders are working hard to coordinate COVID-19 vaccine access for people experiencing homelessness. No matter where your community may be in vaccination planning and delivery, it is never too early for homeless service providers to begin talking with people experiencing homelessness about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination.
It may be necessary to get support from your community, donors, and funders for vaccination efforts. Below are sample social media messages that donors can use to show support for your vaccination efforts.
The coming weeks may bring confusing messages from various sources as vaccine distribution evolves. It will be more important than ever for your team to listen to and address the concerns of people experiencing homelessness. Equipping your staff, leadership, and external partners with solid information will assist with implementing any shifts in service delivery that may be needed.
The best way to navigate this time is to educate your team and clients about the vaccine. The work that you do today will ease anxiety and help people to chart plans for themselves and their families.
Your health and well-being are important, and we ask that you monitor yourself and your team to prevent burnout or illness. Please reach out to your supervisors or partners if you need help.