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As the Johnson & Johnson single-dose coronavirus vaccine arrives in California, some homeless advocates are urging the state to prioritize its delivery to unhoused residents, who may be harder to reach for second doses .

“This population often does not have access to transportation and cellular devices to schedule appointments and can be very difficult to reach,” said Joel John Roberts, director of People Assisting The Homeless, one of the largest providers. state homelessness services. “This provides an opportunity to prioritize specialized distribution to those who need it most and who have been hit hard by the pandemic due to job loss, evictions and economic inequality.”

Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine only requires normal refrigeration, which makes transport and distribution easier than Moderna vaccine, for example, which must be stored at extremely cold temperatures. The single-dose vaccine could be essential in reaching populations who cannot easily make an appointment to be vaccinated.

People experiencing homelessness are particularly at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, as living in gathering places like shelters or camps can make social distancing difficult. They also have more barriers to healthcare and report higher rates of health problems such as asthma or chronic bronchitis, which can put them at a higher risk of severe COVID-19.

California is expected to receive 320,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over the next few days, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

A spokesperson for the governor said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be distributed along with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines without prioritizing a specific vaccine for harder-to-reach groups, but that “discussions with our federal partners and d ‘others are in progress’.

“Many homeless people move frequently from place to place, from camp to camp. Many find it difficult to keep track of important paperwork and documentation due to various factors including weather [and] Law enforcement is sweeping, ”said Angela Hassell, executive director of Sacramento Loaves & Fishes homeless services group.

The single-dose vaccine would be “ideal” for homeless residents, she noted, and “would relieve the stress of the pandemic.”


FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

Registered nurses administer Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to homeless seniors at the Los Angeles Mission on February 10, 2021.

Some advocates, however, are pushing for all three vaccines to be rolled out simultaneously to homeless populations. Sarah Tower, program manager at Union Station Homeless Services in Los Angeles County, said discussions with the county have so far resulted in the use of all three vaccines to improve access.

Thursday, Newsom announced than california set aside 40% of vaccine doses for the hardest hit communities. Doses will be distributed to postal codes where residents are considered the most vulnerable to be infected and die from the virus based on data on access to health care, housing, transportation, environmental justice and more.

In the list of priority areas, there was no specific mention of homeless populations. Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

Troy Vaughn, president of the Los Angeles Mission homelessness organization, said the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine “is a game-changer.”

“We can actually go to settlements now, we can create outreach teams, we can set up different types of sites where vaccines can be delivered more quickly,” said Vaughn, who was himself homeless and living on the streets of Los Angeles. Skid Row in the 1990s.

When it comes to vaccinating some of our homeless neighbors, we have a chance to get it right.
Joel John Roberts, Head of People Helping the Homeless

California has long faced an affordable housing crisis and roaming rates are increasing during the last years. Again homeless people are generally not eligible for the vaccine in the state, unless they are over 65 years of age or have health conditions putting them at high risk of COVID-19.

A spokesperson for People Assisting The Homeless noted that while the group has been able to immunize customers at their senior housing sites, many of their other customers are still ineligible.

There was notably strong racial disparities among vaccinated Californians so far: only 3% of those who have received vaccines are blacks (blacks make up 7% of the state’s population) and only 17% are latinxes (latinxes make up 39% of California residents). Meanwhile, blacks and Latinxes are disproportionately hospitalized and die from the virus.

Erika Hartman, director of programs at the Downtown Women’s Center, who works with homeless women living in Skid Row, said that “unequivocally, the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine should be a priority for people who are homeless. Hartman noted that blacks are disproportionately represented in California’s homeless population.

“Providers face the additional barriers of relocating individuals for a second dose and communities where people often lose important documents, such as immunization records, during sanitation street sweeps or have their items stolen. of value, ”Hartman said, adding that these barriers could be reduced by prioritizing the single-dose vaccine for the uninhabited community.

Other states and counties are planning to distribute the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine specifically to homeless populations, including Caroline from the south, Ohio, and Dallas, Texas.

More than 518,000 people in the United States have died away from the virus – and on average nearly 2,000 people now die every day.

“When it comes to vaccinating some of our homeless neighbors, we have a chance to get it right,” said Roberts of People Assisting The Homeless.

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