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M Health Fairview has administered 29,053 — and counting — free COVID-19 vaccines to communities facing health disparities

Our MINI program has hosted 303 COVID-19 vaccination events this year in trusted community settings, addressing barriers to access to care.

  • October 11, 2021
  • By Staff Writer

Trust, cost, and transportation are three of the biggest barriers standing between people and healthcare access. That’s why M Health Fairview has administered more than 29,375 free COVID-19 vaccine doses this year at trusted community locations for groups facing health disparities.

The Minnesota Immunization Networking Initiative (MINI), a collaborative led by M Health Fairview and supported by over 125 community partners, started in 2006 by offering free influenza vaccines to the community. Over the years it has expanded to provide free dental fluoride varnish applications, Hepatitis A vaccines, COVID-19 testing, and now COVID-19 vaccinations. Since January 2021, the program has held 321 community vaccination events. In addition to these free vaccines, our health system has provided more than 710,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses this year to patients at our clinics and pharmacies.

“Our MINI program works hard to reduce barriers to access of care by offering care and resources that are culturally and linguistically appropriate,” said Mohammed Selim, M Health Fairview community health program manager. “Since the program started, we have been building relationships and trust with our partners and communities. It’s so exciting to see the program continue to expand to address the emerging needs of our neighbors.”

The immunization clinics take place in community-based settings such as local churches, mosques, schools, community centers, food pantries, and homeless shelters. Since January, 88 percent of the people we served have identified as a person of color and 59 percent indicated a language other than English as their preferred language.

One community partner, African Immigrants Community Services (AICS), has already hosted 17 COVID-19 vaccination events this year and has more planned. AICS hosts clinics inside the 24th Somali Mall located in Minneapolis’ Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. It’s a trusted space where members of the Somali community gather to shop, watch soccer, meet up with friends, and get information. People travel from surrounding communities, including rural areas, to spend time at the mall.

“The mall is a gathering place for our community, so it made sense to offer COVID-19 resources and vaccinations there,” said Ahmed Abdullahi, AICS COVID-19 testing and vaccination coordinator. “People know our team and remember us. Community members often come up to me when I’m out and about and ask about the clinics. Word is spreading about the importance of getting the COVID vaccine because of these clinics.”

The delta variant is an emerging variant of concern, meaning there is evidence of increased transmissibility and disease severity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People in Abdullahi’s community are fearful of the news they hear about the variants and are asking lots of questions.

“The pandemic has changed the lives of so many lives in the world and our community,” said Abdullahi. “Lots of people have lost loved ones, friends, and neighbors. Our job is to reach out to community members to help save lives and help people get back to spending time with family and friends. They know the information that they get from the COVID-19 vaccination clinics at the mall is coming from a reliable source: M Health Fairview.

People see and listen to others’ experiences and connect it back to the clinic. Those who have received the vaccine demonstrate that not everyone experiences side effects. It is helping spread more accurate information in the community versus hearsay.

Abdullahi wasn’t part of AICS at the beginning of the pandemic, but after living through the first few months of it, he jumped at the opportunity to do outreach through AICS.

“This outreach is so important, I’m willing to put in extra work and glad to be able to do it,” said Abdullahi. “The MINI staff has been great and very flexible with their time, offering clinics on weekends and evenings. We don’t take that for granted. On behalf of community, I want to thank M Health Fairview.”

COVID-19 vaccination clinics are being held at the 24th Somali Mall every Saturday through September.