As we continue our local COVID-19 response and recovery, the Bold Goals Coalition has worked with local partners in a variety of ways, from distributing food to supporting student learning. Most recently, partners came together to ensure equitable and timely vaccine access in Walker County, an area that has been hit particularly hard during the past year.
Although Walker County makes up only 6% of Central Alabama’s population, it accounts for almost 15% of COVID-related deaths. The underlying chronic health conditions within the county, such as high rates of diabetes and COPD, made Walker County a hot spot for COVID-related fatalities. So the Walker County Health Action Partnership initiated a concerted effort to make vaccinations available across the county.
While vaccine supply became more available through a few local pharmacies and family physicians, partners in Walker County knew these locations might not be accessible to many of the people who were eligible for, and wanted, a vaccine. To improve community access, the Walker County Health Department (WCHD) asked for assistance in hosting a mass community vaccination clinic.
At that point, WCHD had hosted on-site vaccination clinics only at the health department itself, which received a weekly allocation of 400 doses. One barrier to community-wide vaccination efforts, particularly in more rural areas, is the lack of administrative capacity needed for a vaccination clinic. Most healthcare locations had medical staff to give the shots, but other logistics, such as paperwork, medical observation and traffic control, were required to effectively host a large-scale vaccination clinic elsewhere in the community.
Partners quickly responded to WCHD’s request and began planning a large, community COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Old Airport in Jasper. “This [partnership] quickly replied that if [the Alabama Department of Public Health] ADPH could bring the vaccine, we would take care of the rest,” said Paul Kennedy, Walker Area Community Foundation President and Anchor Organization representative. “I knew that we could offer that because we have an amazing community that does not say ‘no’ when offered a chance to do good for our people.” First doses of the Pfizer vaccine were given on March 30th and April 1st. Second doses were administered on April 20th and April 22nd. Through these efforts, about 1,500 Walker County residents were vaccinated.
These community clinics would not have been possible without the coordinated and collective effort of various state and local entities. The clinic was hosted by the Walker County Health Department/Alabama Department of Public Health in coordination with the Walker County Emergency Management Agency. In addition to ADPH nurses, Capstone Rural Health Center and Bevill State Community College provided volunteer nurses to help administer the vaccine. The Walker Area Community Foundation and United Way of Central Alabama staff helped with volunteer recruitment and management to assist with the clinics, from monitoring to paperwork to follow up appointments. The Walker County Community Action Agency offered free transportation to those in need of a ride to and from the clinics. “The events were not just fulfilling but we had fun doing it and felt good about being able to offer some small dose of hope and comfort for the new post-pandemic world,” said Kennedy.
It was truly collective impact in action – and a double shot in the arm for Walker County.
The Bold Goals Coalition is 200 organizations solving big community problems by aligning partners, resources and agendas.