Shelter, health department vaccinate Kentuckians experiencing homelessness against COVID-19

Posted at 9:27 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 23:16:19-05

About 25% of all Kentucky adults have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, but now members of one of the commonwealth’s most vulnerable populations are getting their turn: Kentuckians experiencing homelessness.

There was enough single-dose vaccine for 50 people at the Emergency Shelter of Northern Kentucky Tuesday, and its director Kim Webb said everyone who opted in makes the staff, each other and the rest of the community safer.

"We're blessed to have that, and they're giving it to us for free,” said Floyd Metcalf Jr., who was among those eager to get a shot Tuesday.

"They're trying to make some of the vaccines come to the homeless so we won't be last because we live in close quarters and stuff like that,” he said.

The Emergency Shelter worked with the Northern Kentucky Health Department to make the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine available to all of its clients, regardless of age.

Executive director Webb said statistics show people experiencing homelessness are roughly 30% more likely to die of COVID-19.

"This is really about reducing the risk for them and it's about reducing the community's risk,” she said of the vaccination efforts.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was a critical tool to protect a population particularly hard to track and often without access to basic necessities.

"There is a sense of relief and maybe a sense of protection health wise to our community and to staff,” Webb said.

The shelter plans to partner with NKY Health again for another vaccination day in the future.

As of Tuesday, Kentucky has vaccinated more than 849,000 people. With the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, state leaders hope to get to roughly 1.4 million Kentuckians, or less than a third of its overall population, vaccinated by April.