Minnesota is retrofitting Metro Transit city buses to be mobile vaccine clinics in order to provide better access to immunizations within hard-hit communities.
The state is starting with two buses, which started service this week. In the coming months, an additional four buses will be transformed.
"Folks who live in high social vulnerability index communities have had a very disproportionate impact from COVID-19," said state Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. "So, this idea of these mobile buses is the next piece of our strategy to get the vaccine into the communities where it is so critically needed."
Health officials are hoping to improve immunization rates among those who are vulnerable of catching the virus, including those living in pre-identified ZIP codes, homeless encampments, staff in agricultural workplaces and individuals or groups of individuals who do not have transportation.
According to the state Health Department, people of color, people with disabilities and urban Native Americans are also among the targeted communities.
These buses are being deployed at the request of groups in the community who want to host vaccination events. Each bus is staffed to give out up to 150 per day.
In order to get the vaccine at one of the mobile sites, patients need to sign up for the vaccine on the day of the event. According to organizers, the immunizations take less than five minutes each.
Inside each bus there is a waiting area large enough for two patients to wait for their shots as well as space for two additional patients to receive their shots. Curtains are hung from the ceiling to provide patients with privacy.
The retrofitted buses are staffed by health providers from Eagan-based health insurance company Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
According to the most recent data provided by the state, more than 2.3 million Minnesotans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Over 1.6 million Minnesotans have completed the vaccine series. According to the data, this accounts for 53 percent of residents in the state over the age of 16.
Minnesota has reported 560,450 total confirmed COVID-19 cases. Of this, there have been 29,372 hospitalizations and 7,044 reported deaths.