Minnesota State officials are launching mobile vaccination units in an attempt to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to underserved populations.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tim Walz and his administration announced the program, which will use repurposed Metro Transit buses to bring the vaccine into communities. The program will begin this week with two buses and scale up to six buses by the summer.
“Equity is a core value of Minnesota's COVID-19 vaccination strategy, and every single Minnesotan deserves safe and equitable access to the vaccine. Making the COVID-19 vaccine available to as many people as possible is essential to ending the pandemic,” Walz said in a statement.
“Our mobile vaccination units are ready to roll and will bring life-saving vaccine directly to communities that need them the most.”
The buses will be staffed by more than 700 volunteers from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
Each bus will be able to vaccinate up to 150 people per day.
As of Monday, 53% of Minnesotans aged 16 and over had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but there are signs that demand for the shots is dwindling, prompting state officials to step up efforts to encourage greater take-up.
The program’s announcement pointed to data showing that communities that score high on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index are more likely to be impacted by COVID-19, and more likely to be behind on vaccine rollout efforts.
The mobile vaccine units will target communities including urban Native American communities, LGBT people, people with disabilities and people with specific health needs. The program will also focus on people experiencing homelessness and people without access to a vehicle.
“The mobile vaccination units are another example of the targeted strategies we’re using to better serve communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including Black, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander, and Native communities,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan in a statement.
The program is a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Health, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Metro Transit, the Metropolitan Council and the Minnesota Department of Transportation.