Massachusetts General Hospital’s mobile COVID-19 vaccination van quadrupled its initial annual goal by providing more than 8,000 vaccinations within vulnerable communities hardest hit by the pandemic, including Chelsea, Revere and Everett. This major undertaking was made possible thanks to a substantial donation of $1 million from the CVS Health Foundation in partnership with the Kraft Center for Community Health and Mass General’s Center for Community Health Improvement.
“The pandemic strengthened our commitment to being a general hospital,” said David F. M. Brown, MD, president of Massachusetts General Hospital, during a Tuesday, July 12 ceremony at the Chelsea HealthCare Center to celebrate the mobile clinic’s first year. “It really underscored and magnified the historic systemic inequities in our health care system that disproportionately burden working-class communities and communities of color in a poignant and disturbing way. We have seen this impact every day in our emergency department, throughout the hospital, in Chelsea and in other community health care centers.”
Dr. Brown said when COVID-19 vaccines first became widely available, it became clear that the hospital needed to devote more time and resources to increase awareness and provide ample access to the vaccines. “We had an opportunity to bring vaccinations directly to our patients,” said Dr. Brown. “And the CVS Health Foundation’s generous gift allowed us to execute that vision to bring it to life — and we were widely successful.” With the community vaccination van on display in the background, hospital and community leaders gathered for the special celebration. The van has become a model for bringing health, wellness and COVID-19 prevention practices directly to historically marginalized individuals, particularly those disconnected from the health care system and who use English as a second language.
An Extraordinary Partnership
During his remarks, Chelsea City Manager Thomas Ambrosino expressed his appreciation to Mass General for its “extraordinary partnership” over the years, particularly during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Without Mass General’s help and support we couldn’t have made it through,” he said. “They were here for us through our testing needs, through food distribution needs and particularly helped us — along with our neighbors in Revere — to set up an isolation hotel, which was essential to protecting those families in Chelsea who couldn’t easily protect themselves in their own crowded units.”
Mr. Ambrosino also extended his appreciation to the CVS Health Foundation and the Kraft Center for their dedication and commitment to recognizing the barriers its residents face in seeking health care. The van, he said, traveled throughout the city — to playgrounds, events, schools, senior centers — to make the vaccination process easy and accessible.
“It helped Chelsea go from a city with the highest rate of infection to a city with one of the highest percentages of vaccinated residents in the whole Commonwealth,” said Mr. Ambrosino.
One Person, One Community at a Time
CVS Health President and CEO Karen S. Lynch said she was extremely proud of the close collaboration between the organizations and the efforts to make the mobile outreach clinic so successful. She said CVS Health is passionate about addressing and working to eradicate health inequities in the United States and the van is one of many efforts they support throughout the country.
“Nothing epitomizes our mission of bringing our heart to every moment of your health more than being in the communities and serving people where they are,” Ms. Lynch said. “We’re all on this journey together and it is with organizations like yours that we can make a difference in the world — it starts with one person, one community at a time.”
The event also included remarks from Joshua Kraft, president of Kraft Family Philanthropies, who shared his family’s vision for community and philanthropy, noting that bringing community members together to work toward a common goal is what helps to make a vision a reality.
“It’s all about partnership and meeting people where they are at, because equality is truly the only way that our communities can be sustained today and built for tomorrow,” Mr. Kraft said.
Following the speaking portion of the program, attendees were invited to tour the van and speak with youth community health ambassadors who — during the past year — helped to address vaccine hesitancy, provide accurate, up-to-date information and connect community members with support services in peer-to-peer, community interactions.
This story first appeared in Mass General’s Hotline.
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