Syringe Service Program Perspectives on Barriers, Readiness, and Programmatic Needs to Support Rollout of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Maria A. Corcorran, Elizabeth J. Austin, Czarina N. Behrends, Elsa S. Briggs, Madeline C. Frost, Alexa M. Juarez, Noah D. Frank, Elise Healy, Stephanie M. Prohaska, Paul A. Lakosky, Shashi N. Kapadia, David C. Perlman, Bruce R. Schackman, Don C. Des Jarlais, Emily C. Williams, Sara N. Glick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background We explored syringe service program (SSP) perspectives on barriers, readiness, and programmatic needs to support coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine uptake among people who use drugs. Methods We conducted an exploratory qualitative study, leveraging an existing sample of SSPs in the United States. Semistructured, in-depth interviews were conducted with SSP staff between February and April 2021. Interviews were analyzed using a Rapid Assessment Process, an intensive, iterative process that allows for rapid analysis of time-sensitive qualitative data. Results Twenty-seven SSPs completed a qualitative interview. Many SSP respondents discussed that COVID-19 vaccination was not a priority for their participants because of competing survival priorities, and respondents shared concerns that COVID-19 had deepened participant mistrust of health care. Most SSPs wanted to participate in COVID-19 vaccination efforts; however, they identified needed resources, including adequate space, personnel, and training, to implement successful vaccine programs. Conclusions Although SSPs are trusted resources for people who use drugs, many require additional structural and personnel support to address barriers to COVID-19 vaccination among their participants. Funding and supporting SSPs in the provision of COVID-19 prevention education and direct vaccine services should be a top public health priority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E36-E41
JournalJournal of Addiction Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • COVID-19
  • coronavirus
  • syringe exchange
  • syringe service programs
  • vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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