‘Trust is everything’: Mobile vaccine clinic puts down roots in Allied neighborhood

MADISON, Wis. – Though vaccine interest has dipped significantly since the spring, a mobile clinic sets up shop in the Allied neighborhood every third Thursday.

“I don’t know why I haven’t gotten it yet,” Joshua Fleming said as he sat to get his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine this Thursday. “I’ve just been working a lot.”

The vaccine clinic in the Reach Dane Red Arrow parking lot works hard to make getting a shot easy.

“I was at the gas station and I see two of my friends walking past, and they had just left from right here,” Fleming said.  “That’s what made me come here because it’s free. I’m right here. Why not?”

Reaching the community

“We know there’s a really low vaccination rate here in Allied,” said Jennifer Everson, manager of marketing and development for Reach Dane. “We serve so many families here.”

Reach Dane is partnering with the Fitchburg Family Pharmacy, which rolls into the clinics with vaccine doses, along with the Allied Wellness Center and the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County.

“Since we were one of those populations who had the most cases, we want to make sure they understand the importance of this vaccine,” said Xochilth Garcia, outreach director for the chamber.

Part of the goal is to provide a welcoming, consistent neighborhood presence.

“In the African American and Latino communities, trust is everything,” Garcia said. “We want people to learn we are here and trust us. We want to earn that trust from them.”

Building that trust can require footwork, with the Allied Wellness Center also doing door-to-door vaccine outreach. Jacqueline Stevens with the center is happy to bring vaccine information along with food deliveries in her Allied neighborhood every Friday morning.

“This is my community. I live in this community,” Stevens said. “When you inform them and educate them on the facts, they feel like, ‘Hey, maybe I’ll go get vaccinated, there’s some truth in it,’ you know?”

Reaching everyone isn’t easy, but those behind the event know it’s too important to give up.

“We need to think about the whole picture and help those communities to get out of the pandemic alive,” Garcia said. “We want to make sure the parents and kids who have the age come out and get vaccinated to prevent more deaths. I think we have enough already of deaths.”

Alongside the shots at the clinic, people get a free meal and information on how to get the $100 incentive from the state. But for Fleming, it was more about the peace of mind.

“It’s very important,” Fleming said. “Fifteen minutes out of your day ain’t going to hurt you to come get a shot that could save your life.”