- Author: Edward Graham
- Date: March 17, 2022
A Prairie Hills bus waits in front of Monument Health’s hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. For many individuals, especially those…
This is the first in a series of blog posts on this topic. In this blog, I will share some thoughts on where transportation obstacles may pose a barrier to individuals, particularly in rural areas, becoming vaccinated.
First and foremost, people will need to choose to be vaccinated. This is not an easy feat. The creation of these vaccines happened at lightning speed, in a matter of months versus the four or so years it usually takes. In addition, the vaccination development has been somewhat tainted by perceptions that is has been politicized, leading to some distrust in that process.
A January 2021 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation noted that 35% of rural respondents indicated they probably or definitely would not get the vaccine. Consider this in the context of reporting from nonpartisan Center for Rural Strategies that the rate of new cases in rural areas is skyrocketing. I have also heard anecdotally of rural transit drivers imploring their bosses, “Don’t make me get the vaccine, please.” There are ways to help people understand the new vaccines, such as this CDC toolkit found here.
Choosing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, as with other vaccines, will remain a personal choice. But for those who do want to be vaccinated, what transportation-related barriers will stand in their way? A professor from Binghamton University synthesized some of the challenges earlier this month. In addition, I am hearing the following:
Also, one needs to consider the efficient use of all doses of vaccine in one vial. The Pfizer vaccine (the one that needs to be kept at very cold temperatures), has approximately six doses in each vial and requires two vaccinations to achieve maximum immunity. The Moderna vaccine has approximately ten doses in each vial which also requires two vaccinations to achieve maximum immunity. (The third vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca, has not yet been approved for emergency-use in the U.S.). This means, that depending on which vaccine a rural clinic has, it will need to carefully schedule the number of recipients so there are no leftover doses as well as keep and transport the vials at optimal temperatures; the vaccine cannot be re-frozen once the vial is opened.
Rural transit’s role can encompass several activities. FTA has recently published this FAQ, CE18: Are FTA funds available to provide transportation to or from COVID-19 vaccination site? addressing what is allowable under CARES and Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021(CRRSA) funds.
Here are a few ideas floating in the field:
Finally, here are just four examples of transportation initiatives, both public and private, we have gathered:
See more examples here and by searching “coronavirus” on NCMM’s website. As your role vis-à-vis vaccination evolves, please let us know so we can add you to our table.
Have more mobility news that we should be reading and sharing? Let us know! Reach out to Kirby Wilhelm (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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