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Grant funding helps strike teams strive for vaccination equity

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 12:08 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - As the Roanoke Alleghany Health District tackles public health inequities in light of the pandemic, health officials are building partnerships across the region. One of those partnerships is with strike teams. Those teams are made up of people who go into Roanoke communities to inform people about the COVID-19 vaccine, and even help those eligible get registered for clinics.

As we explain in our series “Shot Clock,” new grant funding is now aiding their work.

Loaded up and locked up, there is a new resource to fight COVID-19 rolling down Roanoke streets. Roanoke Fire-EMS crews are using a trailer to travel around the city and help with the vaccination process.

“So this would be kind of your workspace. We can actually set up a table, we’ve got two couches set up on each side,” Trevor Shannon, emergency management coordinator and strike team member, explained.

Behind the wheel of the truck pulling the trailer, Shannon is taking steps to ensure health equity.

“Really trying to target certain areas within the city where we understand there’s high risk,” Shannon said.

Now those efforts are getting a support from a Virginia Department of Emergency Management Grant. Paired with a match from the city, that health equity grant brings a total of $99,600 into Roanoke.

It used to pay for items like wheelchairs, chairs and tables that are used at community vaccination clinics. So far the city has held two of those clinics, vaccinating 200 people, in partnership with High Street Baptist Church and Roanoke City Schools.

“Basically the equipment you see here was purchased with that grant,” Shannon said at the church community clinic. “So we’re able to drive around in a trailer, take the equipment out, set it up, bring the Virginia Department of Health in, and they can start running vaccine clinics pretty simply. Within an hour we were set up and ready to go.”

Part of the grant funding will also be allocated to a second trailer. Both will hit the streets as mobile vaccine clinics.

“We can actually have people sit down inside, and have people register if we need to, as the weather warms and we start getting outside,” Shannon said.

The aim is to work toward health equity and get more Roanoke residents through vaccination clinic doors.

“It’s really just helped us grow these relationships that are important to equity in the Valley and to our community members,” Shannon said.

The health equity grant is also being used to fund a part time bilingual COVID-19 Support Specialist. She is relaying information in Spanish to Roanoke’s Hispanic communities.

In a virtual discussion on health equity Tuesday, the health department, city leaders, and Carilion Clinic’s diversity chair all talked about ways they are working to give everyone access to the same resources. Health District officials say having partnerships with people who are trusted in the community, like the strike teams, will be key to getting everyone the health care they deserve.

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