Bibb’s vaccination efforts launch as Cleveland prepares for NBA All-Star weekend

The Cleveland Department of Public Health announced a popup vaccine clinic at Tower City this Friday, along with vaccination incentives and a new mobile vaccine request form as part of Mayor Justin Bibb’s initiative to raise the city’s vaccination rate.


Tower City. Photo by Halle Parks via Unsplash.


The Cleveland Department of Public Health (CDPH) hopes to vaccinate about 500 residents against Covid-19 at a pop-up clinic in Tower City this Friday as the city prepares to host thousands of NBA fans for All-Star Weekend, said the department’s Interim Director Brian Kimball at Monday’s meeting of Cleveland City Council’s Health, Human Services and the Arts Committee

The vaccination clinic, running Friday, Feb. 18 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Tower City’s Skylight Concourse (230 West Huron Road), is part of Mayor Justin Bibb’s initiative, in partnership with the NBA and Cleveland Cavaliers, to raise the city’s vaccination rate from about 46% (where it is now) to 60% by the end of 2022.

“There are a number of initiatives that are in place starting today,” Kimball said. “We anticipate an increase in the number of people showing up at these clinics.”

Both Bibb and other local officials have emphasized community outreach and partnerships with grassroots health organizations across the city to address the vaccine disparity that’s left lower-income communities of color in Cleveland — some with vaccination rates around 35% — markedly less vaccinated than wealthy, mostly white suburbs outside the city with rates as high as 85%. The NBA partnership is one piece of that approach, which will bring more pop up vaccine clinics to neighborhoods throughout the city, along with incentives to take part in them. 



Friday’s clinic, for example, will feature “special appearances” and giveaways of NBA merchandise and tickets to All-Star weekend events along with free Covid-19 tests, masks and hand sanitizer. As of Jan. 18, CDPH had vaccinated 41,019 people, according to Bibb’s Chief Communications Officer Sarah Johhnson. 

To promote the event, CDPH posted fliers on the city’s website and shared the information with “community partners,” Kimball said, and the Funders Collaborative on Covid-19 Recovery, which includes nearly 50 local philanthropic organizations who have given pandemic-related grants to more than 600 nonprofits in the region. When this reporter checked on Tuesday, March 15, the events were listed on the city’s website but not on CDPH’s website. It’s unclear how else the Bibb administration will promote the events in order to get 500 people vaxxed. 

Kimball said CDPH is offering the same incentives, merchandise and tickets, all week to anyone who gets vaccinated at its health clinics: J. Glenn Smith Health Center in Glenville and McCafferty Health Center in Detroit Shoreway, which have extended their hours to provide vaccinations for those ages 12 and up this Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. A flier on the city’s website says McCafferty will be open for those extended hours every Thursday, and J. Glenn Smith will be open for them every Tuesday, but a phone operator at CDPH said the extended hours were only for this week. The clinics are both typically open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“Really seeing the disparities in vaccination [and] the disparities in deaths by race, especially, I think it gives us an understanding of where we need to be helpful and help concentrate resources,” said Ward 17 Council Member Charles Slife, who serves as the vice-chair of the  Health, Human Services and the Arts Committee. 

I’m hopeful that that’s just one of many more events over the next couple of months. The pandemic’s not over, as much as we’d like for it to be.
— Ward 17 Council Member Charles Slife

Kimball said the agency has identified “priority areas” in neighborhoods throughout Cleveland but did not specify further. CDPH is deploying a mobile vaccine team to Zelma George Recreation Center in the Woodland Hills neighborhood on Saturday, Feb. 26. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The department is creating a form on its website by the end of this week that will enable residents or organizations to request future locations and partner with the mobile team. 

“I’m happy to hear there’s the event on the 26th at Zelma George,” Slife said. “I’m hopeful that that’s just one of many more events over the next couple of months. The pandemic’s not over, as much as we’d like for it to be.”

CDPH accepts walk-in vaccinations for both Cleveland residents and nonresidents receiving their first or second doses. Alternatively, you can call the CDPH Covid-19 helpline at (216) 664-2222 to schedule a vaccine appointment with them, or go to to schedule an appointment elsewhere. Homebound people can call the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging at (216) 621-0303 to check their eligibility for a home vaccination.



Michael Indriolo is a reporting fellow at The Land

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