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Some of the most vulnerable people in Bozeman had access to a COVID-19 vaccine Thursday during a clinic for people experiencing homelessness.

On the same day that anyone 16 and older in Montana became eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, Community Health Partners held a vaccine clinic at Human Resource Development Council’s Warming Center on Wheat Drive.

People experiencing homelessness may not have insurance or the time to even think about trying to get a vaccine, said Andrew Connelly, a staff member at the Warming Center

“There’s a million things they have to worry about, the vaccine is not number one on their list,” said Connelly, who got vaccinated on Thursday.

The clinic used doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, said Jen Vero, lead resource coordinator for CHP.

It’s crucial not having to schedule a follow-up appointment in three or four weeks because many of the center’s clients also lack transportation to get to the building and may be hard to get in touch with or locate, Vero said.

Some people experiencing homelessness also live in large groups or eat communally, meaning COVID-19 could spread more easily between them, Vero said.

“We believe it’s important to vaccinate our most vulnerable,” she said.

The clinic came with some challenges. Some of the Warming Center’s clients were skeptical when he told them about the clinic, Connelly said. Getting buy-in was difficult.

The Warming Center also closed for the season starting Thursday, so some people who are homeless may already be focused on their next steps, Vero said.

“Today is a pretty important day for them to be figuring out how they’re going to take care of themselves throughout the summer,” Vero said.

The clinic was open for 80 appointments, said Hannah Churchwell with CHP — but just 15 people had received a vaccine by about 4 p.m. on Thursday. The clinic was also open for some CHP patients and HRDC staff members.

HRDC employee Anna Stone said she cried the entire time she was getting her shot. She’d been thinking of her grandmother who died of COVID-19 and the relief getting vaccinated brings.

Stone has had to do a lot of in-person work during the pandemic as a housing counselor for people who are homeless and those facing eviction, she said. She said she felt grateful to get her vaccine.

“I just love knowing that whenever I have a scratchy throat I don’t have to worry that I’m exposing my vulnerable clients to COVID,” Stone said.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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