Omolola Adeoye-Olatunde, PharmD, MS, is the principal investigator for a grant supporting a new collaboration with Purdue University Center for Health Equity and Innovation (CHEqI), Walgreens and Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana to offer free COVID vaccinations. So far, her team has organized two vaccine drives this summer at Gleaners during regular food distribution days, with plans to do more in the coming weeks and months. Walgreens provided a supply of Pfizer vaccines for these events.
“We didn’t know if it was going to work,” said Jasmine Gonzalvo, PharmD, who is the director of the Purdue Center for Health Equity and Innovation (CHEqI), as well as a co-investigator for this grant. “We didn’t know if people in line for food were going to be vaccinated already. We didn’t know if there would be animosity towards the vaccine. We were very cognizant of not disrupting the purpose of Gleaners, so their neighbors [clientele at Gleaners] would feel safe getting their food if that’s all they wanted. And it worked out really well.”
During the first vaccination event on June 3, 2021, 69 people got vaccinated. Another 82 people got vaccinated at the second event on June 24, 2021. At both events, English and Spanish speaking Purdue University pharmacy student volunteers assessed eligibility and interest in receiving the COVID vaccine.
“I think it’s important for the public to know that there are people in academia, who are really passionate about community health, meeting people where they’re at and meeting their needs,” said Adeoye-Olatunde, who was an Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI) TL1 Postdoc Scholar in 2019. She is now an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice and the Community-Engaged Research Lead with the Center for Health Equity and Innovation (CHEqI) at Purdue University. “We’re not doing it for research purposes, we’re addressing the social determinants of health to make a real impact.”
This novel vaccination effort came together within about four weeks, from the initial idea to the first event at Gleaners. Organizers said this project highlights an effort to develop patient-centered approaches, linking people to services they want, rather than forcing the public into structures that aren’t as convenient for their daily life.
“Another thing that really struck me was just how willing everybody was to collaborate,” said Sonak Pastakia, PharmD, MPH, PhD, who is part of the Senior Leadership Council for the Purdue University Center for Health Equity and Innovation (CHEqI), as well as another co-investigator of the grant. “It was great to see the eagerness of Walgreens and Gleaners to work with our team, because we saw the kind of impact we could have when we work together. It was a success on all levels and a lot of learnings happened that we hope to take forward and apply to future implementations like this.”
This effort was supported by the Marion County Public Health Department, the City of Indianapolis, and Resolve to Save Lives COVID-19 Community Recovery Grant 21101970 and in-kind support from Walgreens and Gleaners who contributed infrastructure and expertise.