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Puget Sound partnership helps underserved communities get COVID-19 vaccine

Non-profits like Mary's Place are partnering with Safeway and Albertsons to help underserved communities get vaccinated.

SEATTLE — Puget Sound Safeway and Albertsons stores are working with community organizations to help increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine. It's a critical partnership for underserved communities. 

A 65-year-old woman who goes by the name of Ms. Johnson, said Monday's vaccine tour was a chance for underserved communities to feel seen. 

”I have COPD really bad,” said Johnson. She's facing two battles: an underlying health condition and homelessness.

"Probably after I have my second one and then a little time after that, then I’ll probably relax,” said Johnson. Receiving her first vaccine dose is critical for survival in an uncontrollable environment.

"Homelessness is really hard,” she said. 

Johnson reached out to the non-profit Mary’s Place for help.

"You’re told to stay home and stay healthy, you don’t have a home. You’re told to wash your hands, but the places are closed. Where are you supposed to go to get the help? And then, vaccines rollout and you know you’re 65 and you know you qualify, but yet you have no access to get ahold of an appointment,” said Marty Hartman, Mary's Place executive director. 

Mary’s Place and other community organizations are partnering with Safeway and Albertsons to make COVID-19 vaccinations more accessible for underserved groups.

"We knew with the online system there’d be a lot of barriers to access for everybody in our communities to get an appointment,” said Sara Osborne, director of external affairs for Safeway. 

Offering 100 appointments per week, the grocery store chain is trying to make accessing vaccine appointments seamless, knowing community organizations are a necessary bridge to make that happen.

"Getting information wasn’t good enough for me, having someone actually make it sealed the deal,” said Johnson. 

As eligibility expands, so will the role of community organizations.

"This is a lifeline. This is life-giving, this is life-saving to all those that we serve,” said Hartman. 

"Mary’s Place is a nonprofit organization that provides safe, inclusive shelter and services for women, children and families on their journey out of homelessness. Mary's Place opened in 1999 as a drop-in day center for single women experiencing homelessness in downtown Seattle. They opened their first emergency family night shelter in 2011 and currently operate eight overnight shelters providing more than 550 beds. Four of those shelters operate as 24/7 Family Centers that provide housing, employment, and wellness services each day."