By Bebhinn Gilbert and Staci Sahoo, Hopelink
Vaccination appointments are in high demand again as families seek COVID-19 vaccinations for their children and eligibility expands for booster shots. But how can you take advantage of this critically important protection if you can’t make it to a vaccination appointment? When you don’t know how to get there, a one-neighborhood date can just as easily be county-wide.
When making plans to get the vaccine, everyone should think about how they can get there: how will it fit into my schedule? Can I afford this trip? Does anyone have time to drive me? Sometimes these questions do not have easy answers, especially for the elderly, people with disabilities, people with limited English, and those who do not have their own vehicle or schedule. flexible working.
A helpline for the transport of vaccines at your service
King County’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mobility Task Force has worked to remove barriers to vaccination. They have established a one-stop shop Coordinated helpline for vaccine transport to help people find transportation to vaccination sites. Hopelink’s mobility management staff manages the helpline and connects people to flexible options that meet their needs, eliminating the need for people to have to call separate service providers to find a ride. Many transportation options are free and can accommodate people with disabilities.
Anyone in King County can use the helpline by calling 1-425-943-6706, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or by filling out the Vaccine transport helpline Form. Trips may be available the same day, but please call as soon as you get an appointment for the vaccination, especially if you require a weekend ride.
Recently, a group of bikers needed a service capable of transporting their group together and accessible to deaf bikers. Help line staff confirmed a ride the same day the call was made and rescheduled when their plans changed. Other callers have requested door-to-door service, a driver who can wait with them while they are at their appointment, or even help plan the easiest transit route. Help line staff know that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to transportation, and they are committed to finding the best fit for every caller.
A collaborative approach to problem solving
As the COVID-19 vaccine began rolling out this year, it was clear that transportation was an obstacle. Many of the populations most in need of the vaccine have not been able to travel safely and reliably to their immunization appointments. In January 2021, the King County COVID-19 Vaccine Mobility Task Force, made up of transportation stakeholders and public health officials – Seattle and King County, met to begin work to ensure that transport was not a barrier to accessing vaccines.
Prior to the working group, transport providers and service agencies were trying to understand the problems of transporting vaccines in their own silos. Without a coordinated effort, community members would be forced to find on their own and from multiple sources appointments for vaccines, accessible locations, and a return trip to their appointment. The working group streamlined information and organized options for the community in a more intentional way to connect people with the care they wanted.
The work done by this group and the partnerships established have yielded positive results for both community members and policy makers. The Memo on transporting vaccines, written by working group partners in March 2021, highlighted several needs early on, including accessible vaccination locations for community members to walk, cycle, or ride to get to the vaccination .
King County COVID-19 Mobility Task Force Partners
Thank you to the organizations that joined the Working Group or supported access to vaccine by transport. Led by Hopelink, other partners included Catholic Community Services Volunteer Services West Washington, Cities of Kirkland and Seattle, King County Metro, Sound Transit, Seattle / King County Aging and Disability Services, SHAG, Sound Generations, MV Transit, Northshore Senior Center, Snoqualmie Valley Transportation, and Seattle / King County Public Health. Additional funding to support this work has been provided by Community Living Connections from the Washington State Department of Transportation, All in WA’s Vaccine Equity program, as well as travel credits from Lyft and Uber.
For more information and transportation options during COVID, visit Find A Ride COVID-19 Resource Page.
Originally published November 19, 2021.