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PHMDC rolls out mobile vaccines to summer festivals, fairs

Mobile vaccine clinic

Kyle Larson (left) receives a COVID-19 Johnson and Johnson vaccine at the Cottage Grove Firemen’s Festival on Saturday, June 19. Public Health Madison & Dane County set up a mobile vaccine clinic at the festival on Friday and Saturday afternoon, giving out shots to anyone that wanted one.

Live music, carnival games and a COVID-19 shot.

As Public Health Madison Dane County prepares to end coronavirus testing and vaccinations at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on June 26, it’s hitting the road.

Since April, when the health department held its first mobile vaccine clinics at group housing sites, its staff has travelled to far corners of the county to reach people who, for whatever reason, have yet to get a shot.

The vaccines are free and available to anyone age 12 and older without an appointment. Youth younger than 18 need parental consent.

As with the Alliant Energy Center vaccine clinic, financial backing is coming in part from a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

Meeting people where they’re at has this, spring and early summer, often meant setting up at festivals or other outdoor events.

Last weekend, a mobile clinic rolled out to Cottage Grove’s Firemen’s Festival, offering first doses of Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.

This Friday, June 25, and on three subsequent Fridays in July and August, health department staff will be at Veteran’s Park in downtown Cambridge during the Cambridge Arts Council’s Summer Concerts.

The arts council is coordinating with Public Health Madison and Dane County to offer the pop-up vaccine clinic from 4-8 p.m. on June 25, July 9, July 23 and Aug. 13.

Cambridge Arts Council President Laurie Struss said the health department originally contacted her about having a mobile clinic at Midwest Fire Fest in July. In an ensuing conversation, after sharing that Fire Fest has been canceled for 2021, she suggested holding mobile clinics during Summer Concerts.

“I am a huge fan of vaccinations and am proud that the Cambridge Arts Council can be a tiny part of the solution,” Struss said. “I’m so glad they reached out to us.”

“Simply put, this was important to do. It isn’t enough to say ‘hey, go get vaccinated.’ You have to make it accessible,” Struss said.

At the Fireman’s Festival in Cottage Grove last weekend, ten public health staff members set up between the beer tent and a carousel, under a tent with camp chairs, two folding tables and a cooler full of vials.They were right next to a Deer-Grove EMS tent, allowing for quick medical attention if a patient had a reaction.

There was immediate interest; health department staff gave out one Johnson & Johnson vaccine before the mobile clinic officially opened for business on Saturday.

Staff members said feedback they’ve gotten indicate the importance of their presence; many people shared that they weren’t likely to get a shot at a site outside their community.

Pop-up clinics are also happening this summer in libraries and parks, including at a homeless encampment in a Madison park.

“We have done clinics in parking lots, at churches, at community centers, everywhere you can think of and then some,” said Tess Ellens, COVID vaccine deputy and immunization coordinator for Public Health Madison and Dane County. Going forward, she said, “I’m sure there will be different types of clinics that we have yet to see.”

In early June, it gave first-dose shots at the Waunakee Public Library and returned there this week with second doses. It was at Heritage Elementary School in Waunakee on June 4 for first doses, and returns there this Friday, June 25, for second doses.

And a first-dose clinic held at the Sun Prairie Library earlier this month will be followed by a return visit on June 30 for second doses.

There will also be a clinic at Olbrich Gardens in Madison on June 28; during the Dane County Fair July 16-17; and at a Mazomanie’s Pavilion on June 28.

Ellens said in addition to the mobile clinics that are viewable via a link to an interactive map at, the health department is booking private mobile clinics that aren’t open to the public.

She said the health department is currently holding up to a dozen mobile clinics a week, up from 2 or 3 a week in the spring.

“We’re really hopping now,” Ellens said. “We’re doing our best to get out to places, to make a presence in truly all the nooks and crannies of Dane County.”

“There’s a lot of access (to vaccine clinics) in Madison, not as much in some of the rural places.”

She said the goal is two-fold: to get shots into arms and to be a presence, offering information in-person and answering questions. And she said there’s a natural synergy to working with organizers of festivals and other events, who have a good pulse on the community, its residents and their needs.

“At some clinics we give a lot of vaccines and sometimes we don’t give a lot. Just being there and talking to people, we find is extremely important and helpful to increasing vaccination rates overall,” Ellens said.

For some sites, the health department is giving first doses and then returning three weeks later to give second doses. For other sites, only first doses are being offered, with information provided by mobile clinic staff as to where and when a follow-up second shot can be obtained.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require a second doses, while the Johnson and Johnson vaccine requires just a single dose.

For more information about bringing a clinic out a community event, send an email to:

Upcoming Mobile Vaccine Clinics

  • June 25: Heritage Elementary School, Waunakee, second doses
  • June 25: Cambridge Veteran’s Park, first doses
  • June 27: Centro Hispano, Madison, second doses
  • June 28: Olbrich Park, Madison, first doses
  • June 28: Mazomanie Pavillion, first doses
  • June 29: District One EMS, Mazomanie, second doses
  • June 30: Sun Prairie Library, second doses
  • July 1: Rookies Food and Spirits, Mazomanie, second doses
  • July 1: Meadowridge Library, Madison, second doses
  • July 9: Bayview Foundation, Madison, second doses
  • July 9: Cambridge Veteran’s Park, first doses
  • July 16 and 17: Dane County Fair, Madison, first doses
  • July 23: Cambridge Veteran’s Park, first doses
  • Aug. 13: Cambridge Veteran’s Park, first doses

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