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As vaccine distribution has picked up speed, some small business owners have taken it upon themselves to help get shots into the arms of community members. It’s a strategy likely to become more widespread as attention moves away from mass vaccination sites to harder-to-reach neighborhoods.
In Jackson, Mississippi, Jeff Good, co-owner of Broad Street Baking Company and member of the U.S. Chamber Small Business Council, partnered with the Mississippi State Department of Health to set up a mobile vaccination station outside his restaurant in late April.
"I know that the only way that we will return to any sense of normalcy is for us to get to herd immunity. I want to do my part to be able to provide a platform, not only for the folks in my restaurant, but other restaurants, and the community at large," Good told WJTV.
Good says after seeing the challenges in reaching widespread vaccine acceptance, he wondered if he could do something about it. Several months ago, he reached out to the state health department to ask if he could hold a vaccine event at his restaurant to help vaccinate employees and community members.
With help from the G.A. Carmichael Family Health Center, the partnership came together, and on April 28, 2021, the clinic was set up in the Broad Street Baking Company parking lot and administered Moderna vaccines to employees, families, and the general public. Employees were not required to take the vaccine, but the shots were available for those who wanted it.
The clinic will return to Broad Street Baking Company next month to administer the second doses.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses large and small have stepped up to fight the disease in their communities, and vaccine clinics hosted by local businesses owners are a crucial next step in the nation’s recovery.
Businesses across the country are ready, willing, and able to help America get vaccinated, writes Mike Carney, Senior Vice President of Emerging Issues, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
With the reach and relationships needed to overcome distribution barriers and vaccine hesitancy, businesses are uniquely positioned to get Americans to the next phase of immunity. Small businesses are also trusted institutions: According to Gallup, small business is the most trusted institution in the United States and represent more than 90% of all businesses in the country.
From encouraging local community members to receive the vaccine and spreading awareness, to providing logistical support and hosting clinics, small business owners are already stepping up.
In early April, employees at Wittern Group, a vending machine manufacturer in Clive, Iowa, were vaccinated through a partnership with Medicap Pharmacy. About a third of Witten Group’s 300 employees received their vaccine through the clinic, and second doses were given four weeks later.
Working with Medicap “was a seamless and easy process,” says Wittern Group’s Chief Marketing Officer Ashley Hubler. “We all have to do our part to get back to normal. This is just one way as a company that we can show our commitment to the community, and our employees.”
Medicap is partnering with several businesses in the Des Moines area to host clinics, and Hubler said word is getting out that this is an option for businesses. She’s also heard of plans in the works for shots to be set up at local sporting events and farmers markets.
Orlando Products, a packaging solutions company, has been running a vaccine clinic at their facility in Baltimore, Maryland. And in Baton Rouge, modern Asian restaurant Soji held a vaccination event called “Get a Shot, Take a Shot,” where anyone who got vaccinated received a free drink or a free dumpling.
Soji partnered with local medical group Relief Health and had an on-site nurse administer Moderna vaccines. The event was part of a larger “Shots for Shots” campaign in Louisiana to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, Yahoo News reports. Customers at the Soji event said the convenience of it was key in their decision to get the shot.
As vaccine supply begins to outpace demand, meeting Americans where they are is crucial. Vaccines must be more accessible than a clinic in a far-off location, and, for many, it’s hard to navigate the patchwork of policies and websites to schedule an appointment even if you have internet access.
But businesses have the space, volunteers, and other resources necessary to host clinics, and larger companies are well-equipped to host in-house medical personnel to vaccinate their employees as they have done in the past with flu shots.
In a recent survey of employees, McKinsey & Company found that 83% of those surveyed said offering on-site vaccinations would increase the likelihood that they get the shot. “Employers are uniquely positioned to support vaccine adoption and could do so by … making vaccination as convenient and costless to employees as possible,” the consultancy notes.
A recent KFF study found nearly a quarter of Americans were more likely to get the vaccine if was available at their workplace.
Few states have prioritized workplaces in their distribution strategies, but employer vaccine clinics are the logical next step from more widespread vaccine adoption in America. Making it easier for businesses to protect the health of their employees and community members will get our country back to health.