UPMC Partners with Community Organizations to Vaccinate 2,000 of Pittsburgh’s Most Vulnerable

By: Lisa Lombardo

UPMC Community Vaccination Partnership

With the help of local community groups, UPMC over four days is immunizing 2,000 of Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable people against COVID-19.

The effort, which aligns with public health guidance, started with the identification of Allegheny County neighborhoods that carry the greatest burden of COVID-19 illness and have the least access to medical resources.

Then, nonprofit organizations, faith groups and neighborhood associations in those areas identified and invited people over age 65 and most at risk for serious complications.

Community partners facilitated outreach to these individuals, making it possible to schedule a vaccine appointment without navigating complex websites or having access to a smartphone.

“Health equity has always been a key focus of our vaccination efforts, even before COVID-19. We will meet people where they are,” said Tami Minnier, chief quality officer, UPMC. “With limited vaccine, we firmly believe this is the population we need to reach first to have the biggest impact on reducing deaths and preventing hospitalizations.”

Given the continuing limits on vaccine supply, community partners — including United Way, Light of Life Rescue Mission, Casa San Jose and Macedonia Family and Community Enrichment Center, as well as community and faith-based groups that serve the Hilltop, Allentown, Beltzhoover, Knoxville and Mt. Oliver neighborhoods – identified those who most need these vaccines and who meet the state’s 1A prioritization guidelines.

“For people in high-risk communities, they don’t have access to computers or transportation like others do. It was looking like they were going to continue to be left out,” said Jerrel Gilliam, executive director of Light of Life Rescue Mission, which works with individuals experiencing unstable housing. “We are thankful to UPMC for making a decision to bring some equity into the equation and make it possible for people who don’t have access to get access [to COVID-19 vaccinations].”

These vaccination appointments, which started Wednesday and continue through Saturday, are by invitation only, and transportation and translation services are provided when needed.

“At first I was a little hesitant about getting vaccinated, but then I thought ‘I have to look out for me.’ I didn’t even feel the needle. I had to ask the doctor if I’d gotten it,” said Linda Fuller, 67, of Wilkinsburg, who has asthma. “If anyone is unsure about getting the vaccine, I would tell them to get it – protect yourself and your loved ones.”