By Bryce Covert

On a July day in downtown Lowell, Mass., the first sunny Saturday of the month, people began to line up for a block party. Food trucks offered everyone a free empanada or egg roll. A D.J. played music. There were kid-friendly activities, too, like a touch-a-truck station with a fire truck and an ambulance.

The party wasn’t just a way to have a good time. The real motivation was to get people in the community vaccinated against Covid-19. Nestled between the food trucks were ones offering Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

In the minds of the public health and community organizers who staged it, it was a roaring success. Sixty-four people got vaccinated within six hours. Hannah Tello, a community health data manager at the nonprofit Greater Lowell Health Alliance, noted that it was eight to 10 times as many vaccinations as what their mobile clinics had been doing; their most successful day before this administered 12.

The people who got shots at the party “were not people who were resistant,” Dr. Tello told me. Outreach workers went to a nearby park and invited the homeless people there to get free food and, if they wanted, a vaccination, and many took them up on the offer in such a low-stakes, nonmedical setting.

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