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Louisville To Vaccinate Homeless Against COVID-19 Using Johnson & Johnson Shots

Volunteers work to administer vaccines to Kentuckians at the Broadbent Arena drive-thru vaccination site.
Volunteers work to administer vaccines to Kentuckians at the Broadbent Arena drive-thru vaccination site.

Louisville health officials are setting aside 1,500 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for the city’s homeless population.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine became the third approved for use about two weeks ago. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it’s a single dose, making it easier to administer to the homeless population.

“Because of the outbreak data, we are going to be going to be focusing on shelters first,” said Erin Rutherford, a supervisor with the Coalition for the Homeless. “We are starting with the Salvation Army and Wayside Christian Mission because they have the most people in shelters.”

Rutherford said she expects the 1,500 doses to meet demand among the city’s homeless population. Data from this year’s point-in-time count hasn’t been finalized, but she said there are usually about 1,000 people in shelters and about 150 unsheltered people living in camps.

Bill Wagner, CEO at Family Health Centers, said the nonprofit’s Phoenix Health Center for the Homeless started administering doses Tuesday.

“Some people just didn’t know enough about the vaccine, so they may have been hesitant to get vaccinated,” he said. “But based on our first day, and this is a small sample size, most everybody we approached was interested and was able to get the vaccine today. We started off slow so we got it right.”

Louisville Metro chief health strategist Dr. Sarah Moyer announced there were 1,023 new COVID-19 cases last week, the lowest weekly total since September.

The city’s incidence rate stayed in the orange zone for the second week, at 19.1 cases per 100,000 people. It had been in the “uncontrolled spread” red zone since October, when there were at least 25 cases per 100,000 people.

Moyer also reported 26 new deaths, bringing the city’s death toll to 953.

“We know that deaths are delayed from case count,” she said. “I’m hoping in the coming weeks that’ll also start trending down.”

More than 145,000 Louisville residents, or 18.9% of the population, have received at least a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. A record 23,000 people received their first dose last week.

Moyer said she expects those numbers to continue increasing.

“[I’m] really starting to have optimism now with spring and sunshine,” she said. “Before the one-year anniversary of our first case, we have three safe and highly-effective vaccines available to us. We know supply is going to increase in the coming weeks.”

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.