Detroit goes door-to-door, pays drivers to promote COVID-19 vaccinations

By: - May 5, 2021 3:56 pm

Robert Cole, 28, of Detroit goes door-to-door to help the city of Detroit’s COVID-19 vaccination effort | Ken Coleman

In an effort to boost its number of COVID-19 vaccinated residents, the city of Detroit on Tuesday launched a campaign targeting neighborhoods around six of its community vaccination sites.

“We are knocking on doors because we want to get the word about our walk-in locations and make it easy for everyone to take advantage of these life-saving vaccines,” said Denise Fair, Detroit’s chief public health officer.

The teams are hanging flyers at the entrance to residences and recording each visit into a city database via cellphone. It comes after Mayor Mike Duggan said in late April that the city would have to change its strategy of scheduled opportunities at neighborhood churches and community centers. The city has been offering walk-in vaccinations for two weeks.

An added strategy is paying drivers $50 per person vaccinated. It has a limit of three people per vehicle.


Detroit trails significantly the statewide coronavirus vaccine percentage. The city has experienced a recent spike in hospitalizations related to coronavirus. On April 5, for example, 263 hospital beds were occupied with COVID-19 patients, which was 9.5% of all patients. On May 3, 369 inpatient beds were occupied with COVID-19 patients, which was 13.2% of all patients.

The state of Michigan has administered more than 7 million total doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, with 50.6% of residents having taken at least one dose. In Detroit, 31.3% of city residents have taken at least one dose. Some city leaders have pointed to economic barriers to transportation as a possible barrier. Others have suggested that some residents have a fear of vaccine side effects and do not trust the government. To address some of those concerns, the door-knocking campaign is staffed with “trusted voices” who live in the target communities. Their role is to encourage residents to visit one of six vaccination sites:

  • Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers Rd.
  • Farwell Recreation Center, 2711 East Outer Dr.
  • Clemente, 2631 Bagley St.
  • Clark Park, 1130 Clark St.
  • Samaritan Center, 5555 Conner St.
  • Straight Gate Church, 10100 Grand River Ave.

“I want everyone to be on the lookout for our volunteers and flyers with information about our neighborhood vaccination clinics where walk-ins are welcome. No appointment necessary,” said Victoria Kovari, a Duggan executive assistant.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.