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NACHC Partners with Centers for Disease Control to Build Equity & Confidence in COVID Vaccines in Underserved Communities

For Immediate Release: 202 309 0338 Amy Simmons Farber

National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) is working in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fight COVID-19 in hard-to-reach populations through Community Health Centers with the help of $18.3 million in CDC pandemic cooperative agreement funding.  The funds will help build health centers’ success in ensuring equity and access in the COVID-19 response and vaccination program.  Health centers have administered more than 10 million vaccine doses and increased the number of vaccines they initiate each week by almost five-fold since January.  More than 80 percent of the shots initiated have gone to people of color.

Health centers are the safety net to the highest-risk patients and often serve as first responders to emergencies such as hurricanes, fires, and public health crises.  The CDC funding will help engage local health centers, health center controlled networks (HCCNs) and primary care associations as trusted brokers to build the evidence base of effective interventions among diverse populations including homeless, mobile, rural, refugee, behavioral health, LGBTQ, farmworker, non-English speaking, and immigrant patients. It will also help mobilize vaccine strike teams to reach hesitant populations in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Border States.  NACHC is an ideal stakeholder in the partnership with CDC as the voice for health centers and an organizational leader that provided critical resources, technical assistance and training to help guide health centers through the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“This effort is critical as we begin the last mile of the pandemic vaccination effort,” said Ron Yee, MD, Chief Medical Officer of NACHC.  “Health centers are going to where the people are to treat and vaccinate their patients.  It is not just about shots in arms, they are also filling the gaps in care for hard-to-reach populations over the long term and creating intervention models that will be useful for the future.  Our goal is to engage health centers to build vaccine confidence and reduce access barriers in these high-risk populations through use of ‘vaccine ambassadors,’ partnerships and care plans that help COVID patients with environmental factors such as lack of housing, food insecurity, lack of medication and health care services.”

The NACHC collaboration with the CDC is an important next step toward recovery from the pandemic.  The goal is to strengthen public health by integrating services and building on promising practices that not only fight the spread of COVID but also reduce the health disparities that led to minority populations being at increased risk for infection and death from COVID.