State Awards $3.2 Million for COVID-19 Vaccine-equity Efforts

BOSTON — The Baker-Polito administration announced $3.2 million in grants and contracts to community-based organizations as part of the Massachusetts Vaccine Equity Initiative to increase awareness and access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the 20 cities and towns hardest-hit by the pandemic. The awards are part of the administration’s investment of $27.4 million in federal funds announced in March.

The funds, which will be distributed to select community- and faith-based organizations statewide, aim to reduce barriers to vaccination for communities and populations most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Seven new community-based organizations, community health centers, and behavioral-health centers have been awarded $2.2 million to support vaccine-navigation services and customized vaccine administration, building on $6.8 million previously awarded to 25 other organizations. The award recipients are SSTAR Family Healthcare Center, North Shore Community Health Center, Boston Health Care for the Homeless, Latino Health Insurance Program, Caring Community Health Center, Community Health Connections, and Holyoke Health Center.

These organizations will receive funding to link individuals to vaccination services in the community, and to directly administer vaccination to groups that are not reached by other outreach efforts. These include populations who may benefit from one-on-one vaccination support, such as substance-use-disorder treatment facilities, places of worship, homeless encampments, food pantries and congregate meal locations, LGBTQ+ community programs, shelters and day programs, and immigrant-assistance centers.

“As we work to build trust in the vaccine across the Commonwealth, we also put our full trust in community-based organizations to know what their communities need and how to best serve them,” Public Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel said. “Our goal has always been to work toward equity by finding solutions that are right for each community.”

An additional $1 million in funding is being administered by Health Resources in Action (HRiA) in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, building on $2.8 million in previously awarded funds. These funds are being awarded to 23 organizations (resulting in 61 total organizations through this funding) to support their efforts to expand vaccine education and awareness, addressing the specific needs of black, indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and other communities of color within the 20 prioritized communities.

Announced by the Baker-Polito administration in February 2021, the Vaccine Equity Initiative focuses on 20 cities and towns with the greatest COVID-19 case burden, taking into account social determinants of health and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) populations. These communities are Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Framingham, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Leominster, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Randolph, Revere, Springfield, and Worcester.