According to a Nov. 22 press release, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced a $350 million initiative for HRSA-supported health centers to increase COVID-19 vaccines in their communities, with a focus on underserved populations. The funding is intended to support health centers administering updated COVID-19 vaccines through mobile, drive-up, walk-up, or community-based events.
The press release states that “The Expanding COVID-19 Vaccination initiative will provide resources directly to health centers throughout the country to increase COVID-19 vaccinations this winter by addressing the unique access barriers experienced by the underserved populations that health centers serve. HRSA anticipates these efforts will also increase flu and childhood vaccinations through combined vaccination events. All HRSA-funded health centers, as well as health center look-alikes that received American Rescue Plan funding, will be eligible. These funds build on the previous investments made to HRSA-funded health centers to combat COVID-19 and will help even more Americans have access to updated COVID-19 vaccines. To date, health centers have administered more than 22 million vaccines in underserved communities across the country, of which 70 percent to patients of racial and ethnic minorities.”
Further, “To facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccination, the initiative will foster new and strengthened coordination, with community-based organizations that provide childcare, early childhood development, housing, food, employment, education, older adult, or behavioral health services. Health centers will be encouraged to support mobile, drive-up, walk-up, or community-based vaccination events; extend operating hours, outreach, and off-site vaccination locations to expand opportunities for COVID-19 vaccination; and support access to COVID-19 vaccination by expanding transportation, translation, education, and interpretation services.”
Almost 1,400 HRSA-funded community health centers provide primary care to underserved communities and services through more than 14,000 sites across the U.S. n 2021, according to the release, HRSA-funded health centers provided care for one-in-five residents in rural areas and one-in-eleven people across the nation. One-in-three health center patients are living in poverty, and almost two-thirds are racial/ethnic minorities.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra was quoted in the release saying that “Community health centers save lives. We will continue to reach, vaccinate, and protect our most vulnerable people across the country working together with community health centers and community-based organizations. We have seen COVID infections increase in prior winters, and it does not have to be that way this year. We now have updated COVID-19 vaccines to protect communities against the Omicron strain. Our message is simple: Don’t wait. Get an updated COVID-19 vaccine this fall. It’s safe and effective.”