Vaccines available to shelters, most vulnerable in homeless population

Feb 12, 2021

Kira Lewis, a public health nurse, prepares to administer a COVID-19 test to a man at a Spokane homeless shelter in Nov. 2020.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Spokane is slowly, but surely making progress on protecting its homeless population from the coronavirus.

Kylie Kingsbury, the homeless outreach coordinator for the Spokane Regional Health District said 184 vaccines had been given at homeless shelters since the end of January.


“We’ve seen so many people who are very excited about getting the vaccine,” she said. “At a couple of clinics, people decided to get their first vaccine ever, which was the COVID-19 vaccine, and it was really, really exciting for us.”

Shelters are congregate settings, which means they are an environment where COVID-19 can easily spread.

Kingsbury said local shelters have been taking precautions the entire pandemic, and the system didn’t see an outbreak of coronavirus until September. She said if there was a serious outbreak in a shelter, it could be dangerous for residents, many of whom have underlying health conditions, and don’t have access to medical care.

She said the Health District has focused its efforts on shelters that have the highest proportion of people that are 65 and older and are currently eligible for the vaccine. The shelter with the highest proportion of older adults in the community is House of Charity and several clinics have been held there.

The health district is a little more than a week away from distributing second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. She said the district has been partnering with homeless shelters to help those who got the first dose keep track of the date they will get the second.

“Providers and clients in shelters are really excited,” she said. “This is kind of a turning point, it’s the very beginning where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

She said the people who got both doses won’t be fully protected for a few weeks, but it’s a step toward protecting some of the most vulnerable people in the community.