Health Clubs, YMCAs Play a Role in Getting Americans Vaccinated

The fitness industry is playing a part in getting the country to the White House’s goal to vaccinate 70 percent of adults in the United States against COVID-19 with at least one shot by July 4.

Vermont’s goal is to have 80 percent of its population vaccinated, and Edge Sports and Fitness in Williston, Vermont, helped the state edge 76 people closer to that goal. The club offered a free month of membership to those who got the vaccine at a clinic held at the club on June 7, according to Mike Feitelberg, CEO of the Edge.

Seventy-one of the 76 people who received the vaccine were not members of the Edge, Feitelberg told Club Industry in an email. The non-members were given a tour of the facility and left with a certificate that gives them a free month of membership at the Edge.

The other five people who received the vaccine were members. They also received a certificate for a free month of membership that they could use themselves or give to someone else, Feitelberg said.

“Members passing through the clinic were extremely appreciative of the fact the club was providing a clinic for the community as well as the members,” he said.

Vermont is getting close to 80 percent of its population being vaccinated so demand for the vaccine is slowing, but the offer of a free month generated enough interest that Feitelberg would be open to doing another clinic if the state asks.  

“It is my feeling that clubs play a vital role in any community,” he said. “Clubs have the opportunity to elevate their position as a provider of health and wellness beyond their own walls by actively engaging as a true partner with state and local governments, healthcare providers and insurance companies. From the beginning, our COVID response plan has included how we can support our entire community as well our members and staff.” 

The Edge isn’t the only commercial fitness center being used for vaccine distribution. VASA Fitness in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is one of several other commercial clubs that have been vaccine sites. VASA hosted three vaccine clinics at two of its facilities in late May, according to KKTV. Hosted in conjunction with UCHealth, the clinic was open to members and non-members with the goal of helping the community reach its vaccination goals, according to Mindi Bridges, VASA’s chief brand and marketing officer.

“We want to contribute to the safety of our community, and this is one way we thought we could help,” Bridges told KKTV.

Many city-owned fitness centers also have been hosting vaccine clinics, including the Orangeburg City Gym in Orangeburg, South Carolina, which was used as a walk-in vaccination site in March, according to local TV station News 19.

YMCAs also have served as vaccination sites. And YMCAs serving more than 500 communities in 38 states now are offering free, drop-in child care during vaccination appointments for parents and caregivers who need it, the YMCA of the USA announced on June 2.

When schools shut down in March 2020 due to COVID-19, more than 1,400 YMCA sites offered child care to first responders and essential workers. Expanded child care and day camps provided support to parents during last summer. As children returned to school last fall, more than half of all Ys worked with local school districts to provide some form of virtual learning support, including transforming Y facilities into virtual learning spaces, according to the YMCA of the USA.

In addition to hosting vaccine clinics, gyms are also being used as an incentive to get people vaccinated. One of the incentives to get vaccinated that health care provider Kaiser Permanente is offering is free health club memberships, the company announced on June 8. Kaiser Permanente, which has a presence in eight states, is offering an ImmUNITY sweepstakes in which 1,000 vaccinated Kaiser Permanente members — regardless of where they got vaccinated —will win Be Well Rewards that include wellness retreats, healthy home meal deliveries, personal training equipment, gym memberships, and family trips to theme parks and national parks.