“Nobody should go without the shot”: Dispatches from vaccinated street paper vendors

person receiving vaccine

Paul, who sells The Contributor in Nashville, Tennessee, receives the COVID vaccines.

By Jill Shaughnessy

  • Vendor stories

With Covid vaccines being rolled out differently across the world, that means marginalised and vulnerable communities in different parts of the world are receiving immunisation at different rates. But it does mean some good news: street paper vendors are beginning to receive the jab, and with the world opening up again, that’s more than welcome.

With Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, and more vaccines beginning to become available, countries are starting to vaccinate their populations, starting with the elderly. The rollout of the vaccine begins to provide a light at the end of a very dark tunnel that is the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the process to grab a vaccine appointment remains a mystery to many. Homeless populations are eligible for the shot in different parts of the world.

The requirements differ globally, but a few street paper vendors have gotten their jab.

In Nashville, Tennessee, soon-to-be expired doses are being sent to homeless shelters around the city. As of 5 April, Tennessee was in phase 3 of the vaccine distribution. That means all people considered homeless, regardless of age, are eligible to get the shot.

Three vendors from The Contributor street paper in Nashville have already received their vaccine. In an interview, vendor Paul describes his experience getting the jab at Music City Center. He tells The Contributor that the entire process took about 30 minutes. In Paul’s experience, it took 15 minutes for the shot, and 15 minutes of observation time to ensure he didn’t have a bad reaction. He describes how he experienced no pain with the shot and was ready to grab a cup of coffee and get to work afterward.

Paul encourages everyone to get the vaccine. “Nobody should go without the shot. Nobody. The more people get the shots, get vaccinated, the sooner the city can reopen to full capacity,” he says.

Teresa is another vendor who received her vaccine in Nashville. She was originally turned away at the Walmart vaccination center because she didn’t have health insurance. To her relief, after an hour of waiting, she was able to get the shot anyway. Teresa had no real pain after, just a little discomfort in her arm.

“It’s not as bad as you think it would be. Even the scaredy cats that are afraid of shots, it’s not that bad,” she says.

Megaphone in Vancouver, Canada is also seeing some success with vaccine distribution for their sellers.

“We have been fairly fortunate in Vancouver, B.C. There have been several vaccination clinics for marginalised people – including vendors – in the Downtown Eastside, which is home to mostly low-income residents and also a lot of people experiencing homelessness. In fact, the office building where Megaphone is located hosted a vaccine clinic (Friday 26 March) and many of our vendors signed up,” says Megaphone editor Paula Carlson.

a woman in a blue jacket and white hat

Teresa sells The Contributor in Nashville, Tennessee

Peter Thompson, a vendor for Megaphone, received his vaccine at the Carnegie Community Center. He did not schedule an appointment ahead of time, but rather walked into the vaccine center after hearing about it from the Megaphone office.

“It is a feeling of relief as it brings me one step closer to seeing my family again. It has been so long since I have seen them… It takes a toll on a person — mostly the emotional stress,” he says in the March edition of Megaphone. After the shot, Thompson is feeling “fine, grateful, and relieved.”

In the United Kingdom, seventy-year-old Gordon was the first Big Issue North vendor to get the shot. Gordon received the jab in January due to his lung condition and it provided a beacon of hope for him.

“I know loads of people are still waiting to have the first injection so I’m very lucky,” says Gordon.

In Hamburg, Germany, residents of emergency shelters will be vaccinated in the coming weeks, but the rollout remains slow.

One vendor of the Hinz&Kunzt street paper has been vaccinated, however. “Elsa is older than 80 years and those people have the highest priority to be vaccinated here in Germany,” says Benjamin Laufer, an editor at Hinz&Kunzt.

It appears more and more vendors will be getting the jab in the upcoming months. In the United States, President Biden plans to have 500 million total doses administered by August. Although the European Union missed its first vaccination goal, the world is closer to normalcy than it was a year ago.

“It’s really important that people get it. Better to be safe than sorry,” says vaccinated vendor Gordon. “The quicker we can get out of this lockdown, the better. I’m sick of this lockdown. I’m bored of it. I just can’t wait to get back selling the magazine again.” Big Issue North and Big Issue (UK) vendors in England and Wales returned to their pitches on 12 April.

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