CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - As of Feb. 19, the homeless are not included in Ohio’s vaccination plan, even though those living in shelters are at very high risk for contracting the virus.
It took a partnership to bring the first doses of the vaccine to the largest homeless shelter in the state.
MetroHealth’s family medicine department has been coming to the 2100 Lakeside homeless shelter for 11 months to educate the homeless community about COVID-19.
“We initially screened people for risk factors, for a bad outcome for the virus, as well as symptoms of the virus, this was in March when there weren’t a lot of tests available,” explained Dr. Michael Seidman, family medicine doctor at MetroHealth. “Anyone who screened positive would be sent to a hotel.”
They now test every Tuesday. Residents are required to get a negative test in order to go from quarantining to the general population of the shelter.
“Every day we would come with the team and we were testing, and people would ask, ‘When are you coming with the vaccine? We want Metro to come with the vaccine because you’ve been taking care of us,’ and I wasn’t sure when,” Dr. Seidman said.
On Friday, the Cleveland Health Department, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, and MetroHealth worked together to vaccinate 100 people who live and work at 2100 Lakeside Ave.
Although the homeless aren’t included in the governor’s vaccination plan, Dr. Seidman says they are one of the most at-risk groups.
“It’s hard to socially distance,” the doctor explained. “At the start of the pandemic, this shelter would house up to 2-300 people. Over the pandemic, the shelter has worked hard to decrease their numbers so as to increase the chance of socially distancing but people here are high risk because of living in a congregate setting. We also have people over the age of 65 living here, we have people with preexisting conditions living here, we have veterans living here but it’s mainly the congregate living aspect to the shelter.”
Metrohealth says right now they do not have any plans to vaccinate any more people at this homeless shelter, but they will of course be back to administer that second dose here in a few weeks.