Taking COVID Vaccinations to the Homeless in Miami

It is not an easy task to convince some of the homeless people to get the vaccine, especially those who have lived on the streets the longest, said Ricky Leath, outreach specialist with the city of Miami.

A person receiving a vaccination in their arm.
El Alvi/Flickr CC
(TNS) -The Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust has been going to homeless hot spots and shelters across Miami-Dade, making sure that people experiencing homelessness have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Trust is working with Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine, which is administered in one shot, and has been dispatching mobile testing teams. The Trust's goal is to vaccinate all of the homeless population in June, when state-run vaccine sites will be closing. (The state is leaving vaccine distribution to county health departments and local providers.)

It is not an easy task to convince some of the homeless people to get the vaccine, especially those who have lived on the streets the longest, said Ricky Leath, outreach specialist with the City of Miami.

Leath convinced Gary Smith, 58, to get vaccinated since it was going to be a one shot and "he won't have to wear the mask any more." But, Leath said, Smith expressed reservations, saying he "hoped the vaccine will work and won't kill him."

A former homeless man himself, Leah feels "optimistic" about the Trust's plan.

The Trust is teaming with the Florida Division of Emergency Management to conduct the outreach.

Jorge García, who came down from Tallahassee and has lived in the streets for more than 10 weeks, was "happy to be vaccinated to stop using the mask." He urged others to do the same "in order to stay healthy."

García also agreed to be taken to a shelter; the outreach teams are trying to persuade people to move into the shelters, where they can gain access to housing, food, counseling and educational opportunities.

Since the pandemic began last spring, more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered to homeless people in Miami-Dade, said Ronald Book, the Trust's chairman.

The outreach will run through June 11.

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