Prisma Health launched a pilot operation of its mobile vaccine units on Feb. 20. The mobile units are planned to help the health system deliver COVID-19 vaccines to rural and underserved areas.
Seven mobile vaccine units are planned to go online in the coming weeks and will be used throughout the state. Three of those units were purchased with Greenville County coronavirus relief funding.
The Mobile Health Clinics are custom-equipped RV-type vehicles with the necessary equipment to keep the vaccines safe. In a press conference on Feb. 24, officials said the units act as mobile pharmacies, since Prisma staff set up outside the mobile unit to deliver the vaccine through a drive-thru system where patients stay in their cars.
Dr. Kerry Sease, Prisma Health physician and COVID-19 mobile operations leader, said that the health system had three goals for the mobile vaccine units: to bring the vaccine to vulnerable populations, to reach groups that are eligible for the vaccine and to generate community-focused events about vaccine access.
The mobile unit vaccine distribution was “a very smooth process,” according to Sease.
As patients drive up, staff members verify their registration. After receiving the shot, patients are directed to a 15-minute waiting area, where they can wait in their cars while medical staff monitors them for any allergic reactions.
“It was so exciting to have the vaccine out of the community, and there was energy from everybody — from those of us setting up and being there and certainly from the cars driving through,” Sease said. She says that Prisma may, depending on vaccine availabity, be able to deliver 500 doses at these sites.
Mobile vaccine units will return to the sites after three weeks to administer the second doses.
On March 6, three mobile units will be out in the Upstate.
To determine where to send the mobile units, Sease said Prisma relies on real time data.
“We’re able to look at [our data] to identify ZIP codes, even down to the census tract level of who is accessing our [stationary] vaccine sites, and, more importantly, who is not accessing those sites,” Sease said. “We’re going to be engaging with our community partners, local elected officials so that we can reach out to residents throughout these areas of South Carolina to ensure that there is access to this vaccine.”
Vince Ford, Prisma’s senior vice president of community affairs, said that the health system continues to work with communities on vaccine hesitancy. He said that Prisma has been on a listening tour that has provided insight into the reasons people are signing up and aren’t signing up for the vaccine. They’ve worked specifically with African American and other minority populations throughout the state.
“We’re focused on providing the community with the information that they need, again, to make an informed decision,” said Ford.
To find out more about accessing the vaccine at one of Prisma’s vaccine sites, go to https://prismahealth.org/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccine.
For more information about COVID-19 and other vaccine locations, go to https://scdhec.gov/covid19.