CLEVELAND — In little over a week, a mass vaccination site for COVID-19 will open at Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center.
Federal officials picked the center because of its close proximity to Cleveland neighborhoods hit hard by the pandemic.
“I hate to use the term lightly, but it's really a game changer,” said Dr. Lynn Milliner, the medical director of the Cleveland Department of Public Health.
The site is set to open on March 17.
The location was chosen by the White House because it is central and accessible, but still in a medically underserved part of the city.
Of the 25,000 people who live within one mile of the center, 66% are minorities, just under 7% are elderly, and almost 45% live in poverty.
Milliner said the impact of COVID-19 on those communities is devastating.
“We're a lot sicker. We are more likely to be hospitalized in the ICU, been on ventilators and unfortunately make up a larger portion of the population that suffer fatalities from COVID,” Milliner said.
Milliner said since the vaccine rollout started, officials have been trying to get to people in those communities in several different ways like mobile and stationary vaccination pods, but they realize people can’t always get there.
“Having one large stationary pod where everyone can have access to it, we have set hours, have said a number of vaccines that we can give that are in large numbers over a period of time is really going to be impactful and getting the vaccine to the people that need it most,” Milliner said.
That news is welcomed by Kyo Cummings, the pastor of Ebenezer Assembly of Christ in Cleveland's Lee-Miles neighborhood.
“When you look at minorities and specifically African American and Hispanic, they are in need of this help,” Cummings said.
Cummings said he and other pastors are doing their part by encouraging their congregations to stay safe and get vaccinated if they can.
But they’re concerned about how people in underserved communities are able to get to vaccine clinics and wanted one in a more centralized location.
“If you put this on the bus line, if you put this in the inner city, now you've got those people that are dealing with this health access that they could not get to. Now they have access to it,” Cummings said.
Now, with a site in walking distance for many and options for transportation through RTA and rideshare services, he’s hoping that means more people will be able to get vaccinated and stay healthy.
“Now we're trying to bridge that gap. And I'm glad to see what's happening,” Cummings said.
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