Nashville Vaccine ‘Strike Teams’ To Seek Out People Vulnerable To COVID-19

Feb 15, 2021

Credit Stephen Jerkins / WPLN News

Metro Health officials plan to deploy “strike teams” to vaccinate special populations vulnerable to both COVID-19 and being left behind in the rush for doses, which are in short supply.

Mobile strike teams will set up vaccinate sites in areas of north, northeast and southeast Davidson County, which are the most diverse parts of the city.

The Metro Public Health Department plans to partner with some of the same groups that have helped with COVID testing among minority communities. The department plans to choose locations based on accessibility and “familiarity.”

The strike teams will operate for more than a year, according to the plan.

Aside from Black and immigrant communities, strike team priorities also include people who are homeless. So they will use homeless shelters and encampments as vaccination sites.

According to an internal plan obtained by WPLN News, the strike teams’ focus includes:

  1. Black and brown communities
  2. Immigrants, refugees, and ESL residents
  3. Homeless and unstably housed residents
  4. Incarcerated/correctional settings
  5. School-based populations

Accelerating doses to inmates

Metro Health has also found a way to vaccinate some people in custody with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office before they qualify as inmates under the state’s vaccine schedule.

Some states have prioritized people who are incarcerated because prisons and jails are so vulnerable to massive outbreaks. But in Tennessee, prisons overseen by the Department of Correction are waiting until phase 3 to begin offering vaccines.

However Metro says it’s taking into account factors that might qualify inmates for the vaccine if they weren’t behind bars. So the city health department has started by inoculating all prisoners it receives who are 70 years or older. So far, that’s been fewer than 20 inmates, according to Leslie Waller of Metro Health.

Many more inmates will qualify when the state moves to its next vaccination phase, which includes anyone with a risk factor for COVID-19.

“When we get to phase 1c,” Waller said, “that will be our biggest push.”