A street medicine team in Bakersfield is bringing the vaccine to people who are homeless

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People homeless in Kern County are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine according to state guidelines. Now a street medicine team is the first in Kern County to bring mobile vaccination clinics to remote homeless camps.

On Thursday, the Clinica Sierra Vista Street Medicine team administered 25 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to unoccupied people living behind the Rosedale Inn in Bakersfield. Dr. Mathew Beare said it took a lot of time and confidence building to get people to agree to take the vaccine.

“I talked to them before some people said, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if I’m going to get it,’ and then I’ve had people downright saying, ‘I didn’t mean to get it, but if you tell me “I should get it, then I’ll get it,” he said.

The team has been visiting remote camps in the county for almost a year. If they hadn’t made those connections before offering vaccines, Beare said far fewer people would have been ready.

Veronica King, who has been homeless for four years and has been seen by the street medicine team for a few months, said she couldn’t get the vaccine because she had no ID thanks to the mobile clinic, she said it wasn’t a barrier.

Without the Street Medicine team, “I probably wouldn’t have got it at all, to be honest,” she said, referring to the vaccine. It is difficult for the homeless to get to the doctor or clinic, she added.

“A lot of people don’t have time because they’re too busy getting some money for food and other things,” said Stanley Trempe, another person in the camp who received the vaccine.

The street medicine team will continue to visit remote homeless camps every Thursday to distribute the vaccine. And if the demand for vaccines in these areas increases, the clinic will work to add another day for vaccine distribution, according to a spokesman for Clinica Sierra Vista.

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