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Half of people experiencing homelessness received 1 COVID-19 vaccine shot

Nearly 3,000 of 6,000 of people experiencing homelessness in the city received their first vaccine dose, said Denver Health.

DENVER — About half of people experiencing homelessness in Denver have at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Denver Health – that's 3,000 people of the city’s 6,000 homeless.

“There are a lot of challenges coordinating vaccines for people experiencing homelessness,” Dr. Sarah Rowan, infectious disease specialist at Denver Health, told 9NEWS. “The coordination has still been a challenge, but it’s gone pretty smoothly.”

The hospital has worked in conjunction with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and the Denver Collation for the Homeless to spread the word with fliers and peer support, while also running vaccine clinics at various shelters, safe outdoor spaces and recently, street encampments.

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“We immediately schedule follow-up clinics three or four weeks later depending on what vaccine it is,” Rowan said. “We realized that we needed to schedule a couple of follow-up appointments because not everybody is going to necessarily be there on the day of the follow-up.”

Shelters have received priority for vaccination clinics because of numerous COVID-19 outbreaks over the past year.

“This is a congregate setting,” Rowan explained. “People are sleeping just feet away from each other, eating close to each other and we’ve seen outbreaks in shelters.”

Despite the Johnson and Johnson vaccine providing an easier option for administration and planning, its use was paused about two weeks ago per CDC recommendation.

“We were concerned, because giving one dose is much easier than giving two doses; however, we already had pretty good coordination and collaboration, so we immediately pivoted to using Moderna. We didn’t have to cancel any clinics,” Rowan said.

The organizations will begin offering the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to people experiencing homelessness again next week.

In the meantime, Rowan said they are hoping to transition away from Pfizer vaccines because it is not as easy to store as the other options.