Contact: Amy Simmons Farber 202 309 0338
Bethesda, MD – Community Health Centers remain drivers of equity in the fight against COVID, despite the upsurge in the Delta variant. Health centers have been at the forefront of the pandemic for more than 18 months, testing and caring for millions of vulnerable Americans, including America’s essential workers and minorities disproportionately affected by the virus. Today, they have administered 13.7 million vaccines, the vast majority (66 percent) delivered to racial and ethnic minorities. Health centers also continue to vaccinate more people while the rate of COVID-19 infections among their patients has steadily declined.
“The ground game against COVID has now shifted to building vaccine confidence and micro-targeting the unvaccinated – this is where the real work of Community Health Centers begins,” said Ron Yee, Chief Medical Officer of NACHC. “As trusted voices in public health, they are helping to build trust in the COVID vaccine through delivering direct community care and other important services, such as diabetes and blood pressure checks, and mental health services. Going to where patients are, recognizing the barriers to vaccine trust, and countering misinformation are all core to the health center approach.”
President Biden recently praised the efforts of health centers in a Presidential Proclamation issued last week, saying, “Our Nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is stronger because of our health centers, and the tireless, dedicated health center employees who continue to deliver critical services such as COVID-19 testing, treatment, and prevention services on the front lines.”
Efforts to vaccinate continue as health centers mark National Health Center Week 2021 (August 8-14) a weeklong celebration of the program that began over 55 years ago. Events across the country include community vaccination events, health fairs and visits to health center sites by local and national leaders.
NHCW takes place as new federal data show that health centers effectively pivoted their operations very quickly to respond to the pandemic despite a multitude of extraordinary challenges. At a time when other providers were shuttering their operations, health centers increased their telehealth utilization by nearly 6,000 percent. This virtual connection allowed health centers to care for 28 million people who include the chronically ill, patients with non-emergent cases of COVID, the homebound and the elderly. Now, nearly all health centers offer telehealth services, including by telephone for patients who don’t have internet access.
The pandemic also underscored the role health centers play in serving as a safety net for elderly and rural patients, as they served 70,000 more elderly patients and a higher proportion of rural patients during the pandemic than ever before.