The Rockefeller Foundation has announced the launch of a $20 million initiative aimed at improving COVID vaccination rates in communities of color.
According to the foundation, people of color are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 and three times as likely to be hospitalized by the virus as white Americans, yet they account for less than a third of the sixty-three million people in the U.S. who are fully vaccinated. With the aim of closing the gap, the Equity-First Vaccination Initiative will partner with anchor organizations in five cities — Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Newark, and Oakland — to deploy equity-focused, hyper-local vaccine interventions, mount public education campaigns, and improve vaccine distribution. The five anchor organizations are the Open Society Institute-Baltimore, Chicago Community Trust, Houston in Action, United Way of Greater Newark, and Roots Community Health Center in Oakland.
In phase two of the initiative, the foundation will collaborate with several national organizations to apply lessons learned from the five cities to other communities, with the goal of ensuring that at least seventy million people of color are vaccinated by the end of July.
According to a foundation-funded poll of people of color in the five cities, 72 percent of poll respondents want to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, but 63 percent don't know how to go about it, while 20 percent said they had trouble getting care when needed, felt disrespected when getting care, or saw a doctor less than once a year.
"Because of existing structural inequalities — including healthcare access, wealth gaps, and systematic racism — people of color have been much more likely to both contract COVID-19 and die from this virus," said Otis Rolley, senior vice president for the U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at the foundation. "The Rockefeller Foundation is launching this initiative because a vaccination strategy that does not seek to directly combat inequities stands to further entrench them."
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