Crowds of people did not swarm through the Janesville Community Center for Sunday’s mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic, but that was by design.

Officials at SSM Health, the host of Sunday’s clinic, wanted the event to feel intimate and community-based as a way of welcoming neighbors and showing them the clinic was a service designed for them.

“Part of our mission is caring for the entire community,” said Eric Thornton, president of SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville.

Caring for the whole community means reaching out to people where they are, even if they are not SSM Health patients, Thornton said.

About 75 people were vaccinated Sunday at the mobile clinic. That number is not massive, but it wasn’t expected to be, officials said.

The Sunday clinic was not broadcast widely to the public because SSM Health officials wanted to make sure it was reaching people who needed it most, said Megan Timm, community health manager.

Timm partnered with organizations such as the Janesville Community Center, YWCA Rock County, House of Mercy and St. Patrick’s Church to ask people to make appointments in advance, she said.

Announcing the clinic to the broader population likely would have attracted people who have resources, such as Internet and transportation, and likely would have an easier time getting an appointment by now, Timm said.

The easygoing style of Sunday’s clinic helped residents feel welcome, calm and less intimidated than at a larger public clinic, Timm said.

She said the idea to host a mobile clinic at the Janesville Community Center, which is next to the former St. Patrick School, came from the Rock County Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Committee members noted that some populations would feel more comfortable getting vaccinated in a location they know and by people they trust. Timm took that idea back to Thornton, and the clinic grew from there.

Timm and others met with Hispanic and Latinx community groups to learn what the clinic could do to help people get vaccinated.

A Spanish translator from SSM Health was on site helping people from start to finish. Timm estimated about half of those vaccinated at Sunday’s clinic were Hispanic or Latinx.

As Rock County strives to reach herd immunity from COVID-19—meaning about 70% to 80% of the community is vaccinated—Timm said there will be increasingly more focus on addressing barriers to vaccine access and hesitancy.

As of Sunday, 17.6% of the county’s Hispanic population and 14.6% of the county’s Black population had been vaccinated with at least one dose, compared to 36.2% of the white population, according to state health department data.

Access, education and representation are keys to getting everyone vaccinated, Timm said.

She and other community leaders hope to continue broadcasting testimonials from vaccinated people who represent various populations to help increase community trust in the vaccine, she said.

“When we think of herd immunity, this is a step in the right direction,” Timm said.


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