Community Hubs bring the COVID-19 vaccine to our most vulnerable neighborhoods

March 16, 2021: Our goal is to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine as equitably as possible, which means finding outreach and vaccination strategies that address the needs of specific communities. To make it easier for every person in Richmond and Henrico to learn about and access the COVID-19 vaccine, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts are partnering with faith-based organizations across our region to set up Community Hubs for COVID-19 outreach and vaccination.

What is a Community Hub?

Community Hubs are located in neighborhoods where residents experience greater barriers to vaccination and overall health. Richmond and Henrico Health Districts will partner with a nonprofit organization to conduct outreach to community members and help them understand, register for, and receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Each Community Hub will operate for six weeks, and a total of six Community Hubs will operate across Richmond and Henrico throughout the spring and summer.
The first Community Hub is currently taking place at Second Baptist Church on Broad Rock Blvd on the Southside of Richmond and has vaccinated 1,400 residents as of March 6!

Why the Community Hub approach?

Mass vaccination events work well for many residents, but they may exclude residents who lack transportation to the vaccination site, have trouble accessing the registration system, or lack trust in healthcare providers or new medical developments, and are reluctant to pursue vaccination. In Richmond and Henrico, these barriers are most common in neighborhoods where residents are older, have lower-incomes, and/or identify as Black or Hispanic/Latinx. These same communities historically have not received high-quality health care, are at higher risk for severe illness as a result of COVID-19, and deserve all the resources we can offer as soon as possible.

By partnering with faith-based organizations that have a strong community presence and have built lasting trust with residents, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts will be better able to connect with residents and provide easier access to the vaccine.

How are we choosing Community Hub sites?

We are identifying partners and sites with the greatest potential for positive community impact through these three steps:

  1. Use available data to find a neighborhood where a Hub would have a significant impact. Our vaccination team is looking at maps of existing vaccination providers to identify neighborhoods with the least access to the vaccine. We are also identifying zip codes with the greatest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths and prioritizing neighborhoods with higher Social Vulnerability Index scores. The Social Vulnerability Index is a CDC tool that helps identify communities that are most likely to experience a greater burden of disease and hardship in the event of an emergency. It examines factors such as race, language of origin, and rates of poverty, employment, educational attainment, transportation access, and homeownership. In Richmond and Henrico, neighborhoods with a high SVI score house mostly Black, Latinx, or older residents and are seeing higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
  2. Identify a partner organization. The ideal partner has relationships with diverse community members and is eager to help conduct outreach and advocate for vaccination.
  3. Find the right location. An ideal vaccination site is a large, indoor space with restrooms, lots of available parking, and easy access by bus.

How is it going so far?

Second Baptist Church has been an amazing first Community Hub partner! In February, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts provided Second Baptist with up-to-date information to share with residents about the vaccine as well as a list of available appointment slots at the Community Hub. By tapping into their networks, going door-to-door, and offering residents an opportunity to talk with someone trustworthy and familiar about the vaccine, Second Baptist helped over 1,400 residents to register for vaccination, 1,250 residents of whom will have been vaccinated at the Second Baptist Community Hub.

Marc Jolley from Second Baptist says the church’s relationships with the congregation and surrounding community, especially older residents, has helped many to overcome their hesitancy about the vaccine. “Pastor Hodge and our 95-year-old church mother were the first to be vaccinated at our church,” Jolley says. “This set the stage for other seniors and baby boomers.” Second Baptist also wrapped up their 10-week Feed the Seniors program just as the vaccination program was beginning, which made contacting older congregation members easier. Jolley says the experience has been really meaningful for church leadership, especially playing a role in connecting seniors to the vaccine. “We had several people cry that they were so happy to receive their vaccination,” Jolley says. “We also have received cards and phone calls expressing gratitude and thanks for our efforts leading this project in the community.”

Community Hub vaccination events are staffed by Medical Reserve Corps volunteers who have been working throughout the pandemic to provide our communities with information, resources, and care they can trust. If you are interested in volunteering with the Medical Reserve Corps, visit the Richmond City Health District website to learn more.