The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), via the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced yesterday a new $350 million project for HRSA-supported health centers to expand COVID-19 vaccinations in underprivileged regions.
This funding will support health centers administering updated COVID-19 vaccines through mobile, drive-up, walk-up, or community-based vaccination events, including collaboration with community-based organizations and other measures to increase COVID-19 vaccine administration.
“Community health centers save lives,” stated Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. “We will continue to reach, vaccinate, and protect the most vulnerable citizens of the United States by collaborating with community health clinics and community organizations.
Previous winters have seen an upsurge in COVID infections, but that does not have to be the case this year. To protect communities from the Omicron strain of COVID-19, we now have updated immunizations. Our message is straightforward: Act now. Update your COVID-19 vaccination this fall. It is effective and safe.”
Health centers are uniquely positioned to increase COVID-19 vaccinations, according to Carole Johnson, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). “As community-based organizations that have developed deep relationships with their patients and neighborhoods, health centers are in a position to increase COVID-19 vaccinations,” Johnson said.
“These monies will guarantee that residents of underserved communities have access to updated COVID-19 vaccines this winter through community-based immunization events led by trusted health care practitioners and organizations.”
Expanding COVID-19 Vaccination will offer funding directly to health centers around the nation to increase COVID-19 vaccines this winter by addressing the particular access challenges faced by marginalized populations served by health centers. HRSA expects that these measures will also enhance influenza and children immunization rates through combination vaccination events.
All HRSA-funded health centers and health centers that received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds will be eligible. These monies will expand access to updated COVID-19 vaccines for even more Americans, building on past investments made to HRSA-funded health institutions to address the disease. More than 22 million immunizations have been delivered by health clinics in underserved regions across the nation, with 70 percent administered to patients from racial and ethnic minorities.
To enable access to COVID-19 vaccine, the effort will foster new and improved collaboration with community-based groups that provide child care, early childhood development, housing, food, employment, education, senior services, or mental health services.
Health centers will be encouraged to support mobile, drive-up, walk-in, or community-based vaccination events; to extend operating hours, outreach, and off-site vaccination locations to increase opportunities for COVID-19 vaccination; and to increase access to COVID-19 vaccination by expanding transportation, translation, education, and interpretation services.
The almost 1,400 community health centers supported by the HRSA serve as a national source of primary care for underprivileged populations, delivering services at over 14,000 locations. They are community-based and patient-directed organizations that provide affordable, accessible, and high-quality medical, dental, and behavioral health services to over 30 million patients annually, with initiatives designed to reach the homeless, agricultural workers, and residents of public housing.
In 2021, HRSA-funded health facilities served one in five rural residents and one in eleven individuals statewide. One-third of health center patients are poor, and roughly two-thirds are members of racial or ethnic minorities.