Last year, when funds were allocated to the Greater Worcester Community Foundation for vaccine equity programs, interim President/CEO Carolyn Stempler reached out to Dr. Matilde Castiel, MD, a GWCF board member and Worcester's Commissioner of Health & Human Service, to determine where and how the remaining funds could be most impactful. After some thought, Castiel told her the City needed a mobile clinic van that, for the time being, could be used as a roaming Covid testing and vaccination resource.
Worcester's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has coordinated the City of Worcester's Covid-19 Vaccine Mobile Equity Clinic since January of 2021. Through this effort, they have administered over 23,000 vaccine doses to over 14,000 individuals at over 380 mobile clinics. To date, the Mobile Vaccine Team has relied on volunteer or personal vehicles to pack and transport materials.
After allocating a budget of approximately $70,000 and searching for a vehicle to meet all the needs for the City, it was determined that purchasing a fully-outfitted van would require more budget than previously thought.
Enter Vinh Ly, a personal friend of Stempler and owner of 3B Auto Inc. at 18 Canterbury St. in Worcester. Ly, a first-generation Vietnamese immigrant, was so excited to be a part of the project he found an appropriate van for $23,000 at an online auction, priced out the cabinetry and gear needed with HHS staff, and graciously donated his, and his teams, labor to make sure the project came in under budget.
“In the true spirit of what the Worcester community can do when they come together, the new mobile vaccination van/mobile clinic will help reach some of the hardest hit neighborhoods in Worcester,” said Stempler. “Showing how local governments can work with charitable organizations along with private citizens is the epitome of people helping people during the pandemic.”
The van, which includes wheelchair access, hot and cold running water, restroom facilities, cabinetry, and appropriate lighting was unveiled as part of the City of Worcester's monthly Covid-19 Briefing held at 12:00pm, Friday December 10, behind City Hall on the Worcester Common.
“With only 57% of Worcester's population fully vaccinated, the mobile van will sustain HHS's Covid-19 vaccination efforts as the Pandemic continues to evolve,” said Castiel. “We're looking forward to bringing medical resources into the community in new ways and are so thankful to the Greater Worcester Community Foundation and the team at 3B Auto. This collaboration with Carolyn and Vin is an example of how great our community is here in Worcester, and it inspires me to see our City working together.”
While immediate plans are to use the van for Covid-related programs, the ultimate goal will be to have a mobile resource center for the city's health care team helping with community events, emergency response, and mobile healthcare.
“We are so proud to be a part of this project that will help so many people,” said Ly. “We're honored to be part of the Worcester community and even more proud to provide this community resource.”
The van will be delivered to Worcester's Department of Health and Human Services in late December, with hopes of hitting the streets in early January, 2022.