UPMC has begun administering the COVID-19 vaccine to people who are 65 and older.
The hospital system partnered with organizations that serve high-risk communities to identify seniors who are looking for vaccinations. As of Friday afternoon, all 2,000 slots were booked.
“These people are so grateful,” said Monica Ruiz, executive director of Casa San Jose. “Somebody said to me, ‘I’ve been trying for 16 weeks to get a vaccine’ and she was 82, and we were able to get her in.”
Casa San Jose is a resource center for Pittsburgh-area Latinos. Ruiz says many of her clients are undocumented immigrants whose first language is not English. When coupled with technology issues often encountered by older adults, many of the 500-some people Casa San Jose scheduled for vaccinations face major barriers to health care.
“We got a gentleman who got scheduled on his birthday … he said it was better than winning the lottery,” said Ruiz.
UPMC has previously been criticized for its decision to administer inoculations to non-clinical employees, some of whom have been working from home since the start of the pandemic. But Ruiz noted that no other health care organization or governmental agency has reached out to Casa San Jose to distribute vaccine doses.
“We would absolutely love to do this again. UPMC made it very simple for us,” she said. “So many people need [vaccinations] so desperately.”
In addition to Casa San Jose, UPMC also partnered with the United Way, Light of Life Rescue Mission, and Macedonia Family and Community Enrichment Center.
Allegheny Health Network has also focused vaccination efforts on marginalized communities. On Saturday it will vaccinate some 250-300 seniors who live in neighborhoods that “rank high” on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index. Those vaccinations are by appointment only.