Philadelphia: COVID-19 Vaccine Access for the Homeless




Develop a plan to couple direct vaccination services with partnership building to increase vaccine access to persons experiencing homelessness, those who use drugs, and their service providers.


People experiencing homelessness were one of the first groups in Philadelphia to be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  However, several challenges made it difficult for them and supporting organizations to access the vaccines.  Philadelphia does not have a centralized provider for homeless services, making it challenging for organizations working with persons experiencing homelessness to provide vaccines to their clients.  Further, no mobile vaccination provider was dedicated to increasing vaccine access to unsheltered persons.


The Philadelphia Department of Public Health developed two approaches to improve vaccine access to those experiencing homelessness: one for those in shelters and the other for those who are unsheltered and those who use drugs.  Surveys and different outreach strategies were utilized to strengthen partnerships with relevant organizations to support those in shelters.  These organizations serve people experiencing homelessness by providing onsite vaccination services and information sessions addressing vaccine reluctance and misinformation.  Regular meetings were also held with service providers to address vaccine hesitancy and barriers.  To support the unsheltered and those who use drugs, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health worked with organizations to identify where unsheltered individuals and those who use drugs congregate.  They then worked with these organizations to build trust, provide outreach such as harm reduction supplies and hygiene kits, increase services such as outdoor vaccine clinics, and provide educational materials.

This outreach project began in February 2021 and is ongoing.  Funding came from CDC grants.


This project served programs that did not have active relationships with Federally Qualified Health Centers or pharmacies and aided them in developing partnerships and onsite vaccination clinics.  A total of 138 vaccine clinics were held and 19 sites were matched with pharmacy partnerships.  Nearly 2,500 COVID-19 vaccines and over 400 influenza vaccines were provided through this program.  The program noted that offering multiple services within a single location, such as methods to address other medical needs, housing, and social services, increases engagement due to competing demands within the population served.

Supplemental Materials

Years: 2021, 2022, 2023

Locations: Philadelphia

Programmatic Areas: Adult Immunization, COVID-19, Partnerships

Key Words: COVID-19, Health Equity, Immunization Education, outreach, Partnership

Evidence Based: Yes

Evaluations: Limited

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