SEATTLE, Wa. — As vaccination rates slow down across the country, cities are getting creative to get people vaccinated. Now, sports teams across the U.S. are joining the push by bringing vaccine clinics to the sidelines.
Sports stadiums have been mass vaccination sites for months now, but many have shut down due to lack of demand. That’s why these smaller clinics inside the ballpark are becoming more important than ever.
In Seattle, the Mariners are the first Major League Baseball team to offer this service. Three locations inside the stadium give fans a chance to get any of the three vaccines they would like. It's part of the push to get more fans in the stands safely and to get the entire community healthy and protected from COVID-19.
“There's no better feeling than being able to say, ‘I'm at the ballpark watching the Seattle Mariners play again," said super fan and sports podcaster Mike McDonnell.
McDonnell has already attended several games this season.
"Being at the ballpark is kind of like a church to me," he expressed. "It's a religion, you know, baseball's in my blood. I've been a die-hard Mariners fan since I was 4," he said.
But this season, fans aren’t just rooting for the home team. The Seattle Mariners pop-up vaccine clinics inside the stadium are making fans feel more excited than ever.
McDonnell says the clinic’s location convinced him to step up to the plate.
"I felt like I didn't really want to wait for an appointment outside the stadium," he said. "I said, 'You know what? I'll get it done here.'"
Dozens of fans and employees were on deck right behind him.
"It's all about taking care of your community and the people around you," said fan Chris Kroll.
"It makes me feel incredible to even be a fan of this team, that they took the necessary steps to even give fans a nice breather and say, 'Hey, now I even feel more safe going to the ballpark,'" said McDonnell.
And this night was special because one of the Mariner’s youngest fans got his chance: 13-year-old Fisher Black. He and his family came to their first game of the season, surprised to see the vaccine clinic. Black was thrilled the clinic was offering Pfizer, as it was just approved for kids 12-15 years old.
"He was like, ‘Mom, can I do it? Can I do it?’" recalled his mom, Mary Black.
She said she was going to schedule him an appointment anyways, but having it done at the stadium made it easy.
"First at school to get it," said Fisher Black. "I’m going to brag to all my friends, and it’s going to be super sweet."
The quick pinch gave the 13-year-old boy a chance to look forward to.
Mass vaccination sites have popped up in stadiums across the country. When the vaccines first became available, these stadium sites were vaccinating 150,00 people a week. Now, many of these mass sites have shut down with lack of demand, and that's where these smaller sites are coming in to help keep vaccinations going.
In the state of Washington, fewer men than women are vaccinated as of the latest numbers out in April. That's why the Seattle Fire Department and the Mariners think these kinds of clinics are so important. Over the last few home games, they’ve vaccinated hundreds of people. The majority have been men.
"That's what it's all about, is going and meeting people where they are," said Harold Scoggins, the fire chief of the Seattle Fire Department. "We are proud to have the opportunity to stand in the gap and help our community get back to normal, whatever that is."
For now, normal is masked fans, a few extra open seats, and a bigger team helping out to keep sports alive.