N.H. Mobile Vaccine Clinics May Have Few Takers, But Staff Say Success is More Than Numbers
New Hampshire’s mobile COVID-19 vaccine van kicked off its state parks tour this week, with a stop at Bear Brook State Park. It’s part of a new push by health officials to bring vaccines to people who have so far not gotten a shot. As of August 20th, about two in five Granite Staters remain unvaccinated.
In contrast to the early days of the vaccination effort — where the goal was to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible — the state’s current approach favors patience and persuasion.
Donna Powers is the kind of person these mobile clinics are designed for. Her Allenstown home is just a few minutes from Bear Brook, so when she heard the van would be nearby, she thought it was the perfect place to take all her questions.
Months ago, Powers considered getting her shot at a larger state-run clinic in Concord, but she didn’t go through with it.
“I felt like I was going to get rushed,” she said. “OK, get the shot. OK, you're done.”
But at Bear Brook on Wednesday, Powers said there was something about getting the shot with a small team, right in her neighborhood, that made her feel comfortable. She was able to chat with multiple staff members for over half an hour before she made her decision.
Fewer than 10 people ended up getting vaccines at the three hour clinic. Still, the van’s staff felt the turnout was strong. Greg Marcellin, a family nurse practitioner with ConvenientMD, said low turnout is just the reality of where the state’s rollout is right now. For him, success isn't just about large numbers.
“Any one person or two people who come in here makes a big difference,” Marcellin said. “I'm changing people's minds from being misinformed to getting vaccinated.”
Many of the state’s vaccine providers share that mindset: At this stage in the pandemic, when most people who want a shot have already gotten one, any new dose is progress.
Elsewhere, the City of Manchester’s Health Department is also trying to reach those still unvaccinated through targeted “Wellness on Wheels” events that offer an array of health related services and information.
At one such event earlier this week, in the parking lot of Beech Street Elementary School, the mood resembled a block party: Kids were blowing bubbles and playing basketball on the nearby courts, while hundreds of people were chatting and lining up to order from an on-site food truck.
Amid all of that, families could also find information about local social services, register their kids for school or get a COVID-19 vaccine.
In the first two hours of the event, staff running the COVID-19 vaccine clinic said about 20 people sought out a shot. That was much higher than previous "Wellness on Wheels" events, where overall attendance was lower and vaccinations remained in the single digits.
The department’s community health workers, like Biram Saidybah, spent weeks getting the word out about the event with flyers in multiple languages and conversations with families. Having community health workers, like him, who are able to connect with people across different languages was a part of the event’s success, staff said.
“We are working to help people connect to resources that they are either not aware of or they are finding it difficult to connect to,” Saidybah said.