This week, Orange County Health Care Agency workers opened a pop-up Coronavirus vaccine clinic in Anaheim’s La Palma Park to immunize the numerous homeless people known to gather there after substantial criticism for leaving such residents behind. 

The move comes after Voice of OC reported about those living on the streets who may have been left out of county officials’ recent push to inoculate the general population.

[Read: Some Warn Homeless People Getting Left Behind as Orange County Vaccinates, Reopens]

Anaheim homeless advocate Jeanine Robbins, in a previous story was publicly critical of county officials over the amount of people she met in La Palma Park alone, during her homeless meals distribution runs across the city, who not only didn’t get their shot but had no idea how easy it was to do so.

After the publication of that story, Robbins said a county worker called her up in direct response to her quotes and offered to set up a mobile clinic at the park, if they could get hers and other volunteers’ help.

Denise Lindstrom, who is homeless, convinces her friends to get vaccinated while she waits in observation at La Palma Park on July 6th, 2021. Credit: LUPITA HERRERA, Voice of OC

This week, people were already lined up when Robbins arrived to set up, she said, and nearly a dozen homeless people got their shots. The county administered Johnson & Johnson doses, knowing they may not have been able to reach everyone again for a second shot.

“Until you push the county, you don’t know what they’re capable of doing,” Robbins said, adding that county workers “asked if I could be their point person, because they want to do more events like this.” 

“They said if they had just set up out there without the homeless task force and volunteers, they wouldn’t have gotten people over.”

The county appears to be taking that approach to a greater level, and has now set up an on-demand vaccine clinic organizing service, of sorts. 

“We have launched our Mobile Vaccine Service request portal with the intention to better respond to the local community needs,” said Dr. Margaret Bredehoft, deputy agency director of Public Health Services, to Voice of OC on Wednesday. 

The portal invites members of the public to partner with the county and “host a mobile clinic” by making arrangements through the Othena website. That webpage, marked with activism iconography, calls on residents to “rally your community” in poster board font.

“This will help us to efficiently capture requests and create opportunities to offer vaccination services when and where our community needs it most — that may include but is not limited to public spaces, parks, and where our homeless residents are known to congregate,” she said.

People wait in the observation chairs after getting their vaccines at La Palma Park on July 6th, 2021. Credit: LUPITA HERRERA, Voice of OC

One idea county workers posed to Robbins on Tuesday, she said, was something called “backpack vaccines.” 

Under that strategy, Robbins said, county workers would follow Robbins and other meal distribution volunteers along their routes throughout the city to find people where they are, stop-by-stop, to offer them shots.

“I had never heard of that program,” Robbins said, adding that a friend of hers now wants a similar clinic in Santa Ana. “Now they see the event can be successful to their standard, and the county is more agreeable to doing this.”

A nurse gives a homeless person a COVID-19 vaccine at the park vaccination clinic on July 6th, 2021. Credit: LUPITA HERRERA, Voice of OC
A nurse preps the COVID-19 vaccine for Denise, a homeless person getting the vaccine at La Palma park on July 6th, 2021. Credit: LUPITA HERRERA, Voice of OC
Close up of a vaccination sticker on July 6th, 2021. Credit: LUPITA HERRERA, Voice of OC
Nurse gives someone their vaccination card. Credit: LUPITA HERRERA, Voice of OC
Personal belonging of a homeless person waiting in observation at La Palma park on July 6th, 2021. Credit: LUPITA HERRERA, Voice of OC

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