Big Mac, fries and COVID-19 protection: Stark, SARTA, McDonald’s hold mobile vax clinic

June 2, 2021

HARTVILLE – McDonald’s restaurants in Stark County offered a side of COVID-19 immunity with their burgers and fries on Tuesday. The Stark County Health Department and SARTA teamed up for walk-in mobile vaccine clinics in the parking lot of eight McDonald’s franchises overseen by Tomtreyco. Folks could hop on the bus, get a jab of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and leave with a voucher for a free McDonald’s meal. The buses will return to the same locations June 22 to offer second shots.

Catching a SARTA bus, getting the COVID vaccine

At the Hartville stop Tuesday morning, the chance to get vaccinated seemed more appealing than the free sandwich coupon. Savannah Smith laughed when a nurse offered her the free meal gift card. Smith, a manager at the Hartville McDonald’s, got her first vaccine dose in uniform during her break. Smith has Crohn’s disease and was hesitant to get the vaccine because of reported side effects. “I’ve just been really nervous that, since I already have the weak immune system, that it’ll hit me harder,” she said. With the vaccine right outside her workplace, she decided it was time to get the shot over and done with. “It’s really not a big deal,” she said after the quick jab. If you’re on the fence, “go for it. Absolutely.” Between work and obligations at home, Uniontown Police Office Brian Beavers just hadn’t had time to get vaccinated. “I needed to get it done and this was super convenient,” he said, sitting on the bus after the shot. “They made it easy and friendly.”

Clinic goals

That convenience was one of the goals of Tuesday’s roaming vaccine clinics. The health department wanted to bring vaccines to some low and moderate-income areas of Stark County where folks may have trouble getting to a vaccine location, Stark County Health Department communication specialist Chris Cugini said. “The virus is still here. We want to make sure you’re protected and your family is protected. We want you to get your shot,” Cugini said. The department was approached separately by Tomtreyco and SARTA about offering vaccine clinics and decided to marry the two ideas. While other health departments in Ohio have offered clinics at fast-food restaurants or on buses, Stark County may be the first to combine them, he said. They also hope to raise awareness about the importance of COVID-19 vaccination. As of Monday, 45.4% of Ohio’s population had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. In Stark County, 42.3% – 157,071 people – had at least one shot. Most of Ohio’s COVID-19 health orders end tomorrow, but “June 2nd is not a deadline for the virus to go away. It is still a real threat,” Cugini said. “These vaccines are safe. They’re effective. They’re tested,” he said, adding that vaccine manufacturers were able to move quickly on releasing the vaccine because of the amount of time and resources devoted to the project, not because any corners were cut. “And look what we were able to do. Our ingenuity, our health care system was able to come together and make something like this? We should be so proud of our country and be so proud of our healthcare workers and our scientists for putting this together,” he said. Stark McDonald’s offer free meals for COVID-19 jabs at parking lot clinic (