Creating access to COVID-19 vaccinations and healthy food for those in need

Bronx native Justin Muriel wanted to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it became available but struggled with accessing care. He made an appointment to get the vaccine, but the clinic was across town and he didn’t have money for public transportation. He worried he wouldn’t be able to find a new appointment.

“I'm dyslexic and I have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,” Justin said. “Sometimes trying to find vaccine information, even though I have case workers, can be very overwhelming.”

To his surprise, he stumbled across a COVID-19 vaccination clinic being held right in his neighborhood. He was finally able to receive his first dose of the vaccine.

“It's like an extra protection,” Justin said. “It feels empowering.”

UnitedHealthcare and Essen Health Care hosted two COVID-19 vaccination clinics in June in the south Bronx community, to help bring these essential services to people, like Justin, where they are. Volunteers also distributed food kits donated by UnitedHealthcare that included healthy pre-packaged and non-perishable items for those in need.

In addition to addressing the social determinants of health, the clinics aim to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine in minority communities where critical gaps in vaccinations and social services continue to underserve the area.

In fact, racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. face significant health disparities, putting these populations at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 — and becoming seriously ill. African Americans and Latinos are almost three times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 and Latinos are two times more likely to die from the virus.

“The Bronx area was really hit hard by COVID,” said Mike McGuire, the CEO of UnitedHealthcare New York. “That’s why it was very important to partner with a trusted community provider like Essen Health Care to make the vaccine available. We all know how important it is to get everyone vaccinated and this is an important step in getting there.”

To find COVID-19 vaccine resources in your area, click here.