Montgomery County’s mobile health team approaches a milestone — 10,000 vaccinations — as Gov. Wolf visits

A woman receives the COVID-19 vaccine at Montgomery County Department of Safety’s mobile health vaccination site on September 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A woman receives the COVID-19 vaccine at Montgomery County Department of Safety’s mobile health vaccination site on September 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Montgomery County’s Mobile Integrated Health Team is about to hit a major COVID-19 vaccination milestone: 10,000 shots.

The health unit has been delivering doses to those who are homebound or unhoused — wherever they are. It was stationed at SEPTA’s Norristown Transportation Center Wednesday afternoon as Gov. Tom Wolf visited to get a closer look at how it all happens.

“This is just one example of the lengths to which Montgomery County is going, working with SEPTA — thank you, SEPTA — working with SEPTA to make sure that they’re leaving no stone unturned to get people in contact with the vaccine,” Wolf told reporters.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (right) talked to Dr. Valarie Arkoosh and Dr. Alvin Wang at Norristown Transportation Center on September 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The governor must have been impressed with what he witnessed, because he encouraged the other 66 counties in Pennsylvania to take notice of the work Montco’s various departments have done.

“This hardworking team never seems to be content with where they are. They’re always looking for some other way to get out and get to more people,” Wolf said.

Just how does it all happen?

“To accomplish this, we adapt our workspace to meet the patient’s environment and needs,” said Dr. Alvin Wang, chief medical officer of the county’s Department of Public Safety.

On any given day, he said, you can find the team driving out to reach homebound individuals, or even walking along train tracks to help those who are in shelter encampments.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf visited a vaccine clinic and spoke to the press at Norristown Transportation Center on September 29, 2021. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Dr. Val Arkoosh, chair of the county Board of Commissioners, took a moment to highlight more vaccine progress: Over 81% of the county’s population ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

But there are still more jabs the county hopes to get into arms.

“Just this week, our clinics expanded their hours and started administering boosters for the Pfizer vaccine to those who are eligible. In addition to our mobile unit that we’re visiting today, we have four convenient clinic locations in Norristown, King of Prussia, Willow Grove, and Pottstown,” Arkoosh said.

During the morning hours Wednesday, the mobile team was able to add to its current tally and vaccinate about a half-dozen additional people.

In an interview with WHYY News, Wang and Madison Sehn, a health and safety specialist for the county, offered more insight into the Mobile Integrated Health Team and its role in the county’s effort to vaccinate vulnerable populations.

A new ad is running on SEPTA buses encouraging Montgomery County residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The idea was conceived back in 2018 and 2019 as a broader community health program. it quickly pivoted at the start of the pandemic.

“I think one of the biggest obstacles at first was trying to figure out where the people are and who needed us most,” Sehn said.

Once the team was able to find those people, the second obstacle was just a series of questions about which groups to help first, which teams to send, and where.

The teams that go out and do the work on the ground are typically made up of local paramedics and county staff.

Now that the program has largely overcome its growing pains, it manages to offer a wide array of services alongside the COVID jab. In Norristown, for example, the Mobile Integrated Health Team also offered naloxone to curious community members passing by its station.

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