Carle Illinois College of Medicine students are launching new outreach efforts in culturally diverse and low-income communities to answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, and then administer the vaccine to those who would like to receive it.

Aaron Brown

For students like Aaron Brown, the efforts are deeply personal. He saw firsthand how the pandemic ravaged communities from Champaign County to his home community in Virginia. The stories of sadness and loss were debilitating to him.  “After talking to my family and friends who either did not know where or how to get vaccinated or were apprehensive about the vaccine, I wanted to be sure they had a resource specific to them. I know I could not get back home to do that, but I could do it here for the community,” Brown said.

So, Brown and his classmates organized an informational and outreach campaign in hopes of making a difference and having an impact – and it has.  The campaign included a COVID-19 Public Service Announcement shared widely across east central Illinois.  Next, they partnered with the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club and local public health department to host a vaccination clinic.

The team of Carle Illinois medical students created flyers and hit the streets, canvassing neighborhoods, knocking on doors, and visiting churches, barbershops, and community centers to alleviate apprehension about the vaccine and encourage them to receive it.

“We saw what COVID did to predominately Black and Brown underserved communities over the past year, and we wanted to do something to address this issue,” Brown explained.  “We want to bring vaccines to these communities and ease the apprehension associated with getting the vaccine. This is what we hope our outreach efforts will do for the community.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected some racial and ethnic minority groups. Inequities caused by poverty, healthcare access, and other factors have a significant negative impact on health and quality of life.

Carle Illinois College of Medicine students have partnered with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, and Carle Illinois’ Student National Medical Association (SNMA) chapter.  They are prepared and willing to participate in vaccination clinics as greeters, educators, and volunteer vaccinators.

The SNMA’s effort to promote the COVID-19 vaccine in underserved communities is part of a broader Carle Illinois’ college-wide effort to address racism as a health crisis and the healthcare inequities that affect communities of color.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District offers a free vaccine walk-in clinic at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District located at 201 West Kenyon Road, Champaign, IL 61820.  Vaccines are available at the clinic every Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. No appointment is needed.

More information on COVID-19 vaccination can be found here.