AUSTIN, Texas — The School of Nursing at the University of Texas has launched a new initiative, providing COVID-19 vaccines to Austin-area residents who have limited access to requesting online appointments or are unable to travel to large vaccination sites.
Working in coordination with the university's vaccine hub, the School of Nursing and its Medical Reserve Corps recently started its partnership with other university groups, multiple churches in East Austin and other community organizations to improve access to the vaccine.
The effort resulted in two vaccination delivery programs:
- Vaccine Administration Mobile Operations (VAMOS), a mobile clinic set up at local churches and other community sites
- Vaccinate, No Waste (VaxNow), in which extra vaccines prepared in excess of scheduled appointments are taken to individuals who are homebound or have difficulty accessing vaccination appointments
The school said this kind of "hub and spoke" delivery model will allow the inter-professional health care team, including the UT Austin College of Pharmacy, Dell Medical School and the School of Social Work, to provide creative solutions to reach those who cannot access the large on-campus vaccination hub, or who may have other concerns.
Their goal is to bring more vaccines into communities at higher risk for suffering severe symptoms from the virus -- such as those with underlying chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and lung disease -- or those who are at higher risk of developing COVID-19, having more serious complications and dying. These conditions are oftentimes associated with reduced access to social, economic, technological and health care resources that can increase their risk.
“The partnership is set up to provide quick and nimble mobile vaccine clinics for small groups in the communities that need help the most,” said Stephanie Morgan, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, director of Practice Innovation for the School of Nursing. “This includes making sure residents of underserved communities who are most susceptible to the virus and the least likely to have access to the internet and transportation get vaccinated.”
Two of the churches that have partnered with the school include Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Rehoboth Baptist Church. Both are partners with AMEN, an African American mental health and wellness program led by School of Nursing faculty that supports the mental and physical health of African American residents.
“The AMEN team is assisting VAMOS and VaxNoW by providing vaccinators, support staff, and security staff to ensure the mobile clinics run safely,” said Shalonda Horton, PhD, MSN, clinical assistant professor. “In addition, the AMEN team provides informational sessions to address concerns that community members may have about the vaccine.”
The mobile clinic's programs are run by nurses and volunteers with support from the School of Nursing, Austin Public Health and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
“Declines in the area’s coronavirus positivity rate are promising, but vaccinating more of the population is vital,” said Alexa Stuifbergen, PhD, FAAN and dean of the School of Nursing. “Through VAMOS and VaxNoW, we are using our limited resources to help the highest-risk groups who otherwise would go unvaccinated. Thanks to School of Nursing faculty and students, and community volunteers, we are succeeding.”
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