Editor’s note: In following new CDC guidance released Tuesday, Care Beyond the Boulevard will not be administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at this time, Jaynell Assmann said Tuesday morning. She said the Jackson County Health Department plans to supply at least 100 additional Moderna vaccines to members of Kansas City’s homeless community Tuesday following the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Some of Jaynell “K.K.” Assmann’s patients, many of whom are homeless, have been asking her about getting the coronavirus vaccine since January.
But until recently, no one had agreed to partner with her non-profit Care Beyond the Boulevard to provide the doses to some of Kansas City’s most vulnerable members of the community.
So when a call came 12 days ago from an unlikely source offering help, Assmann, 50, cried.
On the line was Abby Rice, 36, who, with her husband, Chase Rice, 37, owns and operates two independent pharmacies in rural Kansas.
Rice had about 800 spare doses after vaccinating everyone who wanted the shot through their pharmacies — Moffet Drug in Norton and Ward Drug in Oberlin. They were having trouble distributing the final doses, so she asked if Assmann could use them.
“Oh my goodness yes,” Assmann replied. “When can you be here?”
Thanks to a collaboration between the Rices and the Jackson County Health Department, Assman will be able to provide more than 1,000 vaccinations to her patients beginning Monday.
About three months ago, Assmann surveyed more than 100 of her patients. At that point, 65% said they wanted the vaccine.
Last week, as she and others signed up patients for this week’s vaccine stops, one woman said, “I thought everyone would forget about us.”
Until now, Assmann said, no one had really prioritized the homeless population — a group so often marginalized — for vaccine access.
“If not for this week’s collaboration, they’d still be waiting,” Assmann said of her patients, some of whom have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or other health disparities that have left her worrying about their health for the past year. “To me, their health care is as important as anyone else’s.”
Care Beyond the Boulevard was founded five years ago with the goal of providing free medical services to individuals who are homeless. Last year alone, they had 4,165 interactions with 1,405 patients.
Assmann, a family nurse practitioner, has helped administer flu vaccines to individuals who are homeless in years past. Distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, however, presents different challenges, the largest being accessibility.
There was some concern around administering the two-dose vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — because it can be difficult to find individuals living on the streets again in time for their second vaccine.
Glenda Mauer, a medical doctor from Norton, Kansas, gave a COVID-19 vaccination to David Coates, 50, at a clinic staffed by Care Beyond The Boulevard on Tuesday, April 13, outside of ReStart, a shelter for the homeless in Kansas City. The volunteers were working with vaccines made available from Moffet Drug in Norton, Kansas and Ward Drug in Oberlin, Kansas. Thanks to a collaboration with the two pharmacies, and the Jackson County Health Department, Care Beyond the Boulevard will be able to provide more than 1,000 vaccinations to patients beginning Monday. “I came to Kansas City to give more vaccines to more people to protect the nation and to help the homeless,” said Mauer. “It overwhelms me, with every shot I get teary-eyed,” she said. “I’m excited to be here.” Mauer was one of three volunteers who traveled from Norton, Kansas to volunteer to help with the COVID-19 vaccinations.
So the Rices, through the Good Neighbor Pharmacy network, got their hands on 200 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen single dose vaccine, which is a better match for members of the homeless community who are not staying in shelters. The Jackson County Health Department provided an additional 100 Janssen doses, Assmann said.
While walk-in vaccine services have been available metro-wide, this collaboration will bring the vaccine to many individuals who are homeless, including the few hundred people now lodged temporarily at various hotels across the city as part of a recent initiative announced by the Kansas City Homeless Union and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas.
Since the Moderna vaccine needs to be used up within a certain time once opened, Assmann said they will be taking remaining doses each day to area shelters in order to prevent vaccine waste. And for those who received a first dose, the Rices will be back in about 28 days to help administer the second round.
“The only way to get through this is to keep doing what you’re supposed to and get doses into people’s arms,” Rice said. “It doesn’t matter where they are or who they are or where they live.“
As a result, Rice said, she and her husband hope their independent pharmacy can take some of the pressure off the community and local healthcare system.
“I’m just so relieved,” Assmann said Monday morning as the Rices drove their vaccine shipment across the state ahead of their first vaccine clinic that evening.
Not only were they driving from a small town five hours away, they were driving from her hometown. (One of her nurse practitioners, as well as their program director, are also from Norton, she said.)
“It just shows the heart of the Midwest. It’s where I come from, and it’s where I got my roots,” Assmann said “It just shows that there really are people out there who care.”
10:30 a.m. to noon at 1542 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas, at the parking lot to the West of Made Men.
1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 918 East 9th Street, Kansas City, Missouri, at the park across from reStart.
5:30 p.m.: the mobile medical bus will take the vaccine on the road, with stops including the North Kansas City sign, Washington Park and hotels and motels serving those experiencing homelessness.
Vaccines will be administered along Care Beyond the Boulevard’s bus route beginning at 5 p.m.
5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at 3308 East 12th street, Kansas City, Missouri, at the Cherith Brook Catholic Worker House.
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at 736 Shawnee Ave in Kansas City, Kansas, at Crosslines.
9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 606 Gladstone Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri, at Independence Boulevard Christian Church.
1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 5102 Independence Ave in Kansas City, Missouri, at Christine’s Place.