Unhoused San Franciscans in the Tenderloin will now have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, thanks to a successful pilot program at Glide, the neighborhood nonprofit announced.
Glide’s website said that the March 25 pilot will lead to a weekly clinic on Thursdays as part of the Tenderloin Community Resource Hub.
“It will be a pop-up, but the hope is [it will] be a recurring one — like the COVID testing site at Glide now,” Glide communications director Robert Avila said in response to a query from Street Sheet.
Glide operates in the middle of the Tenderloin, which has the third-highest overall case rate among city neighborhoods, behind Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley, and is ranked 28th out of 38 neighborhoods in vaccination rates.
“Together we are reducing barriers to vaccine access and serving some of the most marginalized people in San Francisco,” said CEO Karen Hanrahan in a statement published on Glide’s website. “There are significant challenges in providing access to COVID vaccinations to the housed and unhoused residents of the Tenderloin. Bringing a weekly neighborhood vaccination site to the Tenderloin is an absolute accomplishment.”
Glide will also recruit community members to do outreach as part of its “ambassador” and “champion” programs, senior programs director Kenneth Kim said at a District 6 service providers’ meeting on March 19.
The 300 block of Ellis Street, where Glide operates, has been a service hub since the pandemic began last year, providing a COVID testing site and table space for several community organizations. Glide has long served unhoused and marginally housed people in the neighborhood with several programs, providing free daily meals, clothing and hygiene items, as well as harm reduction services to as many as 3,500 people per week, according to its most recent newsletter.
Glide’s announcement came three days after the California Department of Public Health said that it will expand vaccine eligibility to people aged 50 and older on April 1, and people aged 16 and older on April 15. That same day, residents of San Francisco’s single-resident-occupancy apartments — regardless of age — automatically became eligible when clinical experts from the City’s public health department determined that SROs meet the state’s criteria of high-risk congregate settings.
A week earlier, the City announced that unhoused people would be among the next groups of people to receive the vaccine under the state’s prioritization plan. They join people in other congregate settings, such as correctional facilities and residential medical facilities.
In a statement released earlier in March, the City’s COVID Command Center said that people in encampments, residential treatment centers and outdoor, amenity-provided camps known as “safe sleeping villages” should be prioritized for a vaccine because they “could transition into congregate settings at a short notice.”
These moves address equity concerns about access to the vaccine. In the week leading up to the expansion of eligibility, District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney and community leaders called for the City to ramp up outreach to its houseless constituents. The situation is so especially dire for residents of the 94102 and 94130 ZIP codes — both of which are in Haney’s district — that the state deemed the areas among the most vulnerable to the pandemic and the highest priority for equitable vaccine distribution.
The addition of Glide as a vaccination site is a welcome development to Code Tenderloin director Del Seymour. At a March 9 press conference with Haney and other neighborhood homeless service providers asking the City to add more sites to the neighborhood, Seymour suggested Glide, among other Tenderloin locations.
“We need multiple sites in the Tenderloin,” he said. “We’re only putting a needle in someone’s arm, not doing surgery.”
Less than one mile away from Glide’s center of operations, another mass vaccination center is operating at the Moscone Center, which has the capacity to vaccinate 7,000 to 10,000 people per day, according to the City’s COVID Command Center.
But Seymour says that is too far to travel for unsheltered people, especially those with disabilities. When Street Sheet reached out to the command center before Glide’s announcement, it said it had been piloting mobile vaccination units at Vera Haile Senior Housing on Golden Gate Avenue and a shelter-in-place (SIP) hotel that was not identified because of possible medical privacy restrictions.
Since then, mobile units have also visited about a dozen other sites, including navigation centers and SIP hotels, in the first two weeks in March, with a couple of dozen more mobile events planned for the next three weeks, according to the command center.
“Due to its demographics and high density of congregate living settings,” the command center said in a statement, “the Tenderloin will be a primary beneficiary of the City’s mobile vaccination efforts, which are focused on bringing the vaccine directly to community members with barriers to accessing traditional health care.”
VACCINE ACCESS INFO
The three vaccines approved as safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The administration determined all three offer protection against COVID death and hospitalizations.
Sign-ups for vaccinations are also available at Walgreens pharmacy locations in the Tenderloin and South of Market, including those at 456 Mission St., 88 Spear St., 1301 Market St., and 825 Market St.
Muni allows anybody to ride its buses and trains for free to and from a vaccination appointment. Riders are advised to have their appointment form ready.
A mobile vaccination unit will visit Treasure Island the next two Saturdays, April 3 and April 10, to vaccinate eligible residents.
The vaccination site will be open Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. as part of the Tenderloin Community Resource Hub on the 300 block of Ellis Street, between Jones and Taylor streets. Personnel from the San Francisco Community Health Center will administer the vaccine. Register in advance at the Glide Walk-in Center at 330 Ellis St. For more information, call (415) 674-6012.
This story has been updated online to reflect updated information in the second paragraph and the vaccine info box after the print edition went to press.