MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Three weeks ago, knowing the need for MTSU Health Services to utilize COVID-19 vaccines about the expire so they would not be wasted, university nurses Tracy Mifflin and Heather Ashby brainstormed.
Ashby suggested Murfreesboro’s homeless population. Mifflin knows Scott Foster, executive director of Journey Home Inc., a Christian ministry that serves homeless people and the disadvantaged. They approached Dr. Eric Clark, university physician, who agreed it was a great idea.
“Once they gave us the go-ahead and Scott got back to me, things got rolling pretty quickly,” Mifflin said.
Ten Journey Home patrons received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine Friday, May 28, during a two-hour window when Journey Home served lunch to its clients at its West Castle Street location.
“It was actually twice as many people getting the vaccine than the four or five people Journey Home first thought, so we were pleased” said MTSU nurse Leslie Shearon. Mifflin added they “answered a lot of questions from other patrons and seemed very appreciative that we were providing the vaccine.”
Weather — rain in mid- to late morning — likely kept more people from attending lunch and the free vaccine clinic.
Foster said it is “a great opportunity to partner with the university and get more people vaccinated and create a healthier community.”
As vaccines became available earlier this year, Journey Home held a previous clinic in March at the Coldest Nights Shelter at First Baptist Church on East Main Street
MTSU Health Services full-time nurses Mifflin, Shearon and Melissa Gray administered the vaccine Friday, some of which will expire before the end of June, said Shearon.
“This (J&J) is perfect for this population,” said Shearon. “We don’t have to worry about getting them back in for the second shot somewhere.” (FDA-approved Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require a second dose.)
While at Journey Home, the vaccine was stored in a refrigerated cooler at a regulated temperature, Mifflin said.
“Journey Home is a place where community can come together to help people who are struggling,” said Foster, who attended the vaccine clinic. “It’s more than a meal or a roof over their head. COVID-19 put people at risk, and it was a priority of ours to make the vaccine available.”
Mifflin said they will consider returning to Journey Home or other community opportunities if the need is there to provide the vaccine MTSU has available.
Health Services nurses continue administering COVID-19 vaccines on campus to current students and faculty and to new freshmen and transfer students during CUSTOMS orientation in the Health, Wellness and Recreation Center.