Mobile Vaccinations Bridge the Gap
By Spc. Tom Lamb 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
It was a clear spring morning, nothing but the sounds of cicadas and birds in the air. A few people did their morning prayers inside the Islamic Community Center of Potomac. All in all a tranquil Sunday morning before the mobile vaccine bus arrived. The bus brought with it 15 Maryland National Guard members, ready to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to anyone who wanted it. They immediately got to work, sanitizing tables inside the center, setting up signs by the road and coordinating with the leaders of the community center who initially requested the vaccination team.
“I know it was harder in the beginning to get [to a mass vaccination site],” said Staff Sgt. Brittany McFadden, a combat medic specialist with the 224th Medical Company Area Support. “So when we went to these [mobile vaccine] bus missions, we were reaching more communities that, maybe, didn’t want to go to those different sites and are more comfortable in their community centers.”
There has been a lot of effort to get Marylanders vaccinated, but one unique program, the Mobile Vaccination Support Team, is entirely operated by the Maryland National Guard. The program focuses on going into communities that may have difficulty going to get vaccinated because of transportation or employment concerns and brings the vaccine to them at a convenient time and place.
On Sunday, June 6, 2021 the MVST was at the ICCP.
“The National Guard is doing a wonderful job [with the response to COVID-19] and when I learned that the National Guard was going to have a vaccine camp at ICCP I welcomed it,” said Zamrooda Ahad, the managing administrator for ICCP. “I was so happy to see and meet [the service members here today]. It is an honor, actually, to have you in our community.”
One person who made the event possible, Cindy Conant, a food bank volunteer that has now set up two events with the MVST, says events like this might have a big impact on the vaccination rate in hesitant communities.
“I had this idea, especially now that the guard all can bring Pfizer and anyone over 12 years old can get vaccinated, that I really feel like in a lot of families, the kids are going to be more eager to be vaccinated [than their parents],” siad Conant. “And I feel like some of the kids could sort of be a driving force for the whole family. So that’s my hope.”
After setting up in the community center, people started to come in to get vaccinated. The first person vaccinated during the event was 13 year old Jamal Khadar. He expressed excitement about getting back to socializing with his friends. Bringing the vaccine to the community also allowed an expecting mother to get vaccinated without waiting for hours in her car.
The main benefit of the MVST is bringing the vaccine to people who had limited access to it before. The mobile vaccine bus is just one part of the Vaccine Equity Task Force and has brought vaccines to worship centers, apartment complexes and community centers all over Maryland. The VETF has helped administer 120,000 doses of the vaccine, elevating Maryland’s Black and minority vaccination rates to fourth in the country.
If you are part of a community that could benefit from mobile vaccination support, please contact the Maryland COVID-19 vaccine support center at 855-MDGOVAX (855-634-6829) or go to https://massvax.maryland.gov for more information or to find a vaccination clinic near you.