Academic Center Partnership with Health Department and Church to Rapidly Deploy COVID-19 Vaccine POD Reaching Underserved Populations


  • Gale Garmong Duquesne University School of Pharmacy
  • Bridget Calhoun Duquesne University
  • Alison Colbert
  • Victor Grigsby
  • Jessica Mann
  • Annie Nagy
  • Brittani Namey
  • Mary Parish
  • Jennifer Padden Elliott



COVID-19, vaccine equity, integrative health, community engagement, interprofessional education, vaccine point of dispensing (POD), community-academic partnership, academic health department


The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted people of color, underscoring the importance of equity in the public health response. The Duquesne University Center for Integrative Health (DUCIH) is a university-wide center focused on training future practitioners and improving health equity in the Pittsburgh region. DUCIH’s initial pandemic response included a virtual adaptation of community health programs and supporting partners’ testing and vaccination efforts. In March 2021, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) asked DUCIH to establish a vaccine Point of Dispensing (POD) at Central Baptist Church in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, to reach underrepresented populations. DUCIH engaged the Schools of Health Sciences, Nursing, and Pharmacy and multiple university offices to recruit an interprofessional team of 263 volunteers. From March to June 2021, the POD administered 5,652 vaccines in an underserved neighborhood, with a majority of doses administered to people of color, meeting the POD’s aim. This university-church partnership has continued with vaccine clinics and health screenings. This case study shares lessons for rapid response to public health emergencies through university-wide collaboration with community partners. Universities with health science schools should cultivate relationships with local health departments to promote awareness of these capabilities.


Allegheny County Health Department. (2021, March 16). Health department opening additional points of dispensing for vaccines [Press release]. Retrieved from

CDC. (2020a, August 21). CDC COVID-19 response health equity strategy: Accelerating progress towards reducing COVID-19 disparities and achieving health equity. CDC website.

CDC. (2020b, December 10). Disparities in deaths from COVID-19. CDC website.

CDC. (2020c, December 10). Unintended consequences of COVID-19 mitigation strategies. CDC website.

CDC. (2021a, April 19). Health equity considerations and racial and ethnic minority groups. CDC website.

CDC. (2021b, September 27). Disparities in COVID-19-associated hospitalizations. CDC website.

Center for Integrative Health. (2021). Duquesne University website. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from

Elliott, J.P., Christian, S.N., Doong, K., Hardy, H.E., Mendez, D.D., Gary-Webb, T.L. (2021). Pharmacist involvement in addressing public health priorities and community needs: The Allegheny County Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) project. Preventing Chronic Disease, 18,200490.

Fuller, K.A., Heldenbrand, S.D., Smith, M.D., & Malcom, D.R. (2020). A paradigm shift in US experiential pharmacy education accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 84(6), 692-696.

MUA find. (n.d.) HRSA website. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from

PA Act 8 (2015).

PA Department of State. (2020a, December 8). Pennsylvania expands authority of supervised pharmacy interns to administer vaccines. PA Department of State website.

PA Department of State. (2020b, December 24). Supervised nursing students to administer vaccines outside their clinical placements. PA Department of State website.

PA Department of State. (2021, January 27). Pharmacy interns' immunization skills to be more fully utilized by expanding supervision options. PA Department of State website.

Rose, S. (2020). Medical student education in the time of COVID-19. JAMA, 323(21), 2131-2132.