An Entrepreneurial Approach to COVID-19 Vaccination

Maria Meyers has been connecting community resources for more than 18 years

Maria Meyers is executive director, UMKC Innovation Center, and the founder of SourceLink, an organization providing research and development for entrepreneurial communities. She is also serving as one of the Our Healthy Kansas City Eastside co-chairs mobilizing Kansas City’s business community to provide COVID-19 vaccinations.

Her efforts also include providing accurate information on the virus and other basic health services to residents often underserved in health care initiatives. She is working with Daniel Smith, OHKCE business sector co-chair and founder of The Porter House KC, a group developing underserved communities, one business at a time. Together, Meyers and Smith have been recruiting businesses to provide pop-up COVID clinics.

“From the beginning, we spent some time thinking about how we were going to promote this vaccination effort,” Meyers said. “We created merchandise – hats, t-shirts, stickers – that say, ‘Our Healthy Kansas City Eastside’ to help spread the word.”

When the initiative launched, Meyers saw some vaccine hesitancy and the group spent a lot of time on sharing accurate information.

“At our first event, we talked to a lot of people, but our vaccination rate wasn’t very high,” she said. “Now there’s a big difference. We’re up to more than 50 vaccinations at the events and that’s very satisfying.”

Meyers said meeting people where they are has been key to the initiative’s success.

“We needed to be in people’s neighborhoods,” she said. “It was interesting to watch people come out of their homes and apartment buildings to come to the pop-up clinics.”

Meyers doesn’t think their success was entirely due to convenience.

“It was convenient, but there was also time to really sit and talk to people individually about the questions that they had about the vaccine and other medical issues. After talking to someone working at the clinic, that person might say, ‘I’m going to go tell my neighbor to come.’ There was a lot of good word-of-mouth communication.”

Meyers hopes this ongoing trust building and providing health care in neighborhoods will lead to more services and stronger community relationships in the future.

“Thanks to Jeannette Berkley-Patton’s leadership, we were able to bring different groups together – neighborhood associations, businesses, youth groups and churches – and mobilize very quickly,” Meyers said. “And that’s a good lesson for community leaders who might be working toward the same thing, but maybe not collaborating in the same way.  It was pretty amazing to watch.”