Timothy Higgins arrived bright and early one November morning to get his pneumonia shot at Cross Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The church, which has also been home to Bread of Healing Clinic for 20 years, served as the host site for a pop-up vaccination clinic – providing flu and pneumonia shots to vulnerable individuals, with a special focus on seniors.
“I don't have any health insurance at all,” Timothy said. “If it wasn't for this clinic providing my pneumonia shot, I wouldn't get it.”
The American Lung Association received a $160,000 UnitedHealthcare Empowering Health grant to provide these vaccinations in rural and urban Wisconsin. The Lung Association is working with its community partners, like Bread of Healing Clinic, to provide the vaccines through the beginning of next year.
“It's so important because we've got this spike in COVID-19 and it's a respiratory illness,” said Sean Fabry, the operations manager at Bread of Healing Clinic. “We've also got the flu season and to have both of those threats attacking the community at the same time, we need to be able to provide vaccines to help reduce the likelihood that people suffer from the flu, when they're also at risk for COVID.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the annual flu vaccine is especially important for adults over the age of 65, who have the highest risk of hospitalization and serious complications from the flu. This age group is also at a heightened risk for complications of COVID-19, which can cause pneumonia — making prevention efforts vital. But that’s not always easy for vulnerable populations.
“UnitedHealthcare’s Empowering Health commitment strives to expand access to care and address social determinants of health for underserved and uninsured individuals and communities,” said Dr. Nicole Brady, UnitedHealthcare chief medical officer in the Michigan and Wisconsin regions. “As part of that commitment, UnitedHealthcare works with local organizations like the American Lung Association in Wisconsin to address some of the most urgent needs in the community. To date, the Empowering Health program has donated more than $28.8 million in grants across the country.”
Timothy said he is very appreciative of the opportunity to receive his vaccinations, now more than ever.
“I got my flu shot last month,” he said. “Today, I’m preparing even more with the pneumonia vaccine. I have diabetes and high blood pressure. So, these vaccinations are especially important to help me stay healthy.”