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A Street Medicine Team In Bakersfield Brings The Vaccine To People Experiencing Homelessness

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Madi Bolanos
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Melita Dean fills out a questionaire before gettting the Johnson and Johnson vaccine from the Clinica Sierra Vista Street Medicine Team in Bakersfield.

 

People experiencing homelessness in Kern County are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine under the state’s guidelines. Now, a street medicine team is the first in Kern County to take mobile vaccine clinics to remote homeless encampments.  

 

On Thursday, the Clinica Sierra Vista Street Medicine Team administered 25 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to unhoused people living behind the Rosedale Inn in Bakersfield. Dr. Mathew Beare said it took a lot of time and trust building to get people to agree to take the vaccine. 

 

“Speaking with them before we’ve had some people say ‘yeah I don’t know if I’m going to get it’ and then I’ve had people who are outright like ‘I didn’t want to get it, but if you’re telling me I should get it then yeah I’ll get it,’” he said. 

 

The team has been visiting remote encampments in the county for almost a year. If they hadn’t built those connections prior to offering vaccines, Beare said, there would have been far less people willing. 

 

Veronica King, who has experienced homelessness for four years and has been seen by the street medicine team for the last few months, said she thought she couldn’t get the vaccine because she doesn’t have any form of I.D.  Thanks to the mobile clinic, she said, that wasn’t a barrier. 

 

Without the Street Medicine team, “I probably wouldn’t have gotten it at all, to be honest,” she said referring to the vaccine. It’s hard for people experiencing homelessness to make it to the doctor or a clinic, she added. 

 

“Lots of people don’t have the time because they’re too busy trying to hustle up some money for food and other stuff,” said Stanley Trempe, another person in the encampment who received the vaccine.  

 

The street medicine team will continue visiting remote homeless encampments every Thursday to distribute the vaccine.  And if the demand for vaccines increases in these areas, a spokesperson for Clinica Sierra Vista said, the clinic will work to add another day for outreach vaccine distribution. 

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