Following a trial run to solidify the design, the first two of six Metro Transit buses are out in the community serving as mobile vaccine units. These buses may operate statewide out of regional hubs to provide vaccine access for hard to reach populations across the state.
“We’re proud of Metro Transit, who rolled up their sleeves to retrofit these buses so more Minnesotans can roll up theirs to get a COVID-19 vaccine,” Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle said. “And, we’re proud of this collaboration with health officials and the ingenuity of transit staff to create these mobile vaccine units that will provide equitable access to the vaccine across the state.”
These mobile vaccine units will focus on the hardest to reach people, which includes the undocumented, unsheltered, migrant workers, homebound, or people with people with transportation or technology barriers, or speak English as a second language.
Before a seat was removed or a barrier was installed, teams from Bus Maintenance worked with health officials from the Minnesota Department of Health and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBS) to identify needs to transform a bus into a mobile vaccine unit. Then, the team created a pilot bus to test the specifications before retrofitting more buses. Two retired Metro Mobility buses are also planned to be retrofitted as vaccine units.
Mechanics have removed seats, added plexiglass dividers, created vaccine stations, installed cold storage, and created an onboard after-vaccine observation space. The buses will be equipped with “shore power,” which means they can plug into an external power source when needed to ensure consistent power beyond idling. Tents, canopies, chairs and tables outside of the bus will also be used for observation.
When deployed, BCBS staffs the units with clinicians, translators, and receptionists. MDH guides state planning for implementation. MnDOT provides bus storage locations and technical assistance for planning.
Production of more buses following the design created by this collaboration is currently underway. The buses will operate Monday through Thursday throughout the summer, and each bus will be able to vaccinate about 100 people per day, depending on travel time.
For more information about mobile vaccine units, visit the Minnesota Department of Health's website.