Two women with masks sitting at table at vaccine clinic
Features & Articles

A vaccine clinic in Homewood helped more than 400 people get their flu and COVID-19 vaccines this week

  • Health and Wellness
  • Community Impact
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Our City/Our Campus
  • School of Nursing
  • School of Pharmacy

The health of some very important people motivated Rochelle Williams to get her COVID-19 booster vaccine: her husband, who has cancer and is immune-compromised, and her 7-year-old twin granddaughters.

“I’m really doing it for them,” she said. “I want to make sure that I don’t bring anything home.”

Williams didn’t have to leave her neighborhood keep herself and her family safe. On Nov. 15, she stopped by the Homewood Community Vaccination Clinic, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh’s Community Engagement Center (CEC), Pitt CoVax and community-based partners, to get her shot. First doses of COVID-19 vaccines and flu shots were also available to the hundreds of others who stopped by.

“In many ways, the Community Engagement Centers act as conveners and bridges between Pitt and the community,” said Daren Ellerbee, director of the CEC in Homewood. “It's no wonder that Pitt's School of Pharmacy, as well as our community partners, looped the CEC in to host this week’s vaccination clinic.”

Large-scale, community-driven efforts like this are often referred to as “taking a village,” and in this case, Ellerbee credited the Homewood Children’s Village as the driving force behind both a March vaccination clinic at the Homewood YMCA and this week’s clinic.

Shannah Tharp Gilliam (A&S ’04G), director of research and evaluation at the Homewood Children’s Village, said they saw inequity in vaccine access in Allegheny County and wanted to help.

“The vaccine clinics primarily were located in places that require people to drive, and a large percentage of the population here in Homewood doesn’t have access to their own vehicles,” she said. “I think it is very important that the Homewood Children’s Village, as a community pillar, looks out for our neighborhood and makes certain that we are afforded the same types of access to life-saving vaccines as everyone else.”

In all, more than 100 people received shots during Monday’s four-hour long clinic. The efforts continued on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with appointments scheduled to serve more than 360 members of the Homewood community.

Clinics held earlier this year vaccinated more than 2,000 people in the communities of Homewood and the Hill District, and since Pitt’s vaccination effort began last January, the University has given more than 24,000 COVID-19 vaccinations.

A calm, friendly environment

On a typical day, the CEC in Homewood is abuzz with young people tackling their homework in the computer lab, people receiving free legal advice or older adults exercising in a Dance & Be Fit class — all of which continued while vaccines were being given. But this week, the center was also humming with Pitt faculty, staff and students who supported all aspects of the clinic, from registration to administering vaccines.

Claudia M. Kregg-Byers, who teaches a community health nursing clinical class, said she is proud of the role her students played at the clinic and expects they will carry lessons from their time at the CEC in Homewood into their careers.

“I tell my students that it's my job to let them see what nurses do outside the hospital setting. We need to help agencies within the community, deal with the problems of the community,” said Kregg-Byers, who is an assistant professor of health and community systems in the School of Nursing.

Melissa McGivney, associate dean for community partnerships and professor of pharmacy and therapeutics at Pitt, said hosting the clinic at the CEC in Homewood was to give “the full Pitt experience” with care delivered in a calm, friendly environment.

“The efforts in February and March taught us a lot about caring for people in our local communities,” she said. “One of my favorite conversations this year was with a pastor who expressed his appreciation that the clinic was done in such a respectful way with community input.”

The CEC in Homewood also received planning support from Primary Care Health Services/Alma Illery Medical Center staff, which Ellerbee called “an invaluable resource in the East End,” and Bethany Community Ministries provided support by providing volunteer nurses.

Several local organizations also ensured that people of all abilities could receive their vaccines. A representative of AgeWell Pittsburgh conducted a walkthrough to confirm that the space was friendly for people of all ages and abilities to navigate and provided volunteer greeters. Attendees were also able to take ACCESS, a shared-ride paratransit service sponsored by Port Authority, to the CEC in Homewood for their vaccines and had their fare covered by the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.


— Nichole Faina