INDIANAPOLIS — Before the first transit employee reports for work at IndyGo's new headquarters on the city's far east side, the building is first serving hundreds of Hoosiers a day as a vaccination site.
"It's exciting!" Leila Darden exclaimed. "We definitely have come into a situation where we're not only thinking about what the problems are, we're trying to address them."
Darden, a resident of Indy's far east side and President of the Far East Side Community Council is among the Hoosiers who have yet to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. She said part of the reason is that vaccine sites are not always consistent or easily accessible on the east side of Indianapolis.
"Well, currently our community has had to go either downtown or to the west side at the track and things of that nature or try to catch different clinics that are open," Darden said.
Local health officials are also taking notice to the issue. Dr. Virginia Caine explained that east side residents, many of them people of color, were indeed sitting in a void of unequal access to the vaccine. She said the need to take action was clear.
"Not only did we look at the data but when you can have over 500 people coming in a day for vaccinations, that tells you that there must have been a need to have hundreds of people coming here every day to be vaccinated," Caine said.
That's why IndyGo has partnered with the Marion County Health Department to use IndyGo's newly purchased headquarters, located on East 30th Street and Post Road as a consistent vaccine site, since IndyGo staff won't start using the building until later this year.
IndyGo CEO Inez Evans answered the call from the community.
"The building was just sitting here and after listening to Dr. Caine and some others saying there was a need here on the east side we're like, "Uh, excuse me, but we have a 100,000 square foot facility that's just sitting there." We can delay our construction to make sure the people of the east side and all of Marion County have an additional place to come get vaccinated," Evans said.
City-County Councilor La Keisha Jackson represents the area and said local leaders are listening to voices like Darden's who just wants her community to get what it needs.
"We are hearing the needs and the voices of the far east side, collaborating and coming together to bring resources, transportation, free vaccinations here on the far east side," Jackson said.
Walk-ins are accepted at the IndyGo vaccine site, but appointments are recommended. The site is open Tuesday through Saturday.