The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), recently announced a new $350 million initiative for HRSA-supported health centers to increase COVID-19 vaccines in their communities, with a specific focus on underserved populations. This funding will support health centers administering updated COVID-19 vaccines through mobile, drive-up, walk-up, or community-based vaccination events, including working with community-based organizations, and other efforts to increase the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Community health centers save lives,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “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.”
“As community-based organizations that have built deep relationships with their patients and neighborhoods, health centers are uniquely positioned to increase COVID-19 vaccinations,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “These funds will ensure that people who live in underserved communities have access to updated COVID-19 vaccines this winter through community-based vaccination events hosted by health care providers and organizations they trust.”
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.
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.
The nearly 1,400 HRSA-funded community health centers serve as a national source of primary care in underserved communities, providing services through more than 14,000 sites across the country. They are community-based and patient-directed organizations that deliver affordable, accessible, and high-quality medical, dental, and behavioral health services to more than 30 million patients each year, with specific initiatives intended to reach people experiencing homelessness, agricultural workers, and residents of public housing.
In 2021, HRSA-funded health centers provided care for one-in-five residents in rural areas and one-in-eleven people nationwide. One-in-three health center patients are living in poverty, and nearly two-thirds are racial/ethnic minorities.
Learn more about the Health Center Program at https://bphc.hrsa.gov/about-health-centers/health-center-program-impact-growth.
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