The nonprofit is among 150 national community-based groups receiving up to $100,000 from the CDC Foundation to promote vaccination outreach and reduce the health inequities among communities at higher risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The infusion of federal funding will allow the Hispanic Center to expand its existing work promoting vaccination access and to address vaccine hesitancy among the Lehigh Valley’s Latino, Black and immigrant communities in hopes of reducing disparities in vaccination rates in neighborhoods that have been the most impacted by the pandemic.
“As a trusted community organization among the Hispanic/Latino community, the Hispanic Center has been able to reach individuals in their own language and break down potential barriers to vaccine access while addressing vaccine hesitancy,” Executive Director Victoria Montero said. “Funding from the CDC Foundation will allow us to expand our vaccination campaign to target specific neighborhoods in Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton in collaboration with our community partners by mobilizing credible community voices with strong ties to our local communities.”
The announcement comes as the highly infectious Delta variant is fueling a nationwide surge in cases, deaths and hospitalizations. Northampton County is currently averaging 89 new cases a day over the last week, while Lehigh County is seeing 107 new infections per day. Currently, almost 61% of Northampton residents have one shot, while nearly 64% of Lehigh County residents do.
The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color and low-income community members both nationwide and in the Lehigh Valley.
Vaccine uptake amongst these populations has been lower for a slew of reasons ranging from distrust of the medical system to fears over missing work if they feel sick after the second shot. In Pennsylvania, white people are 1.2 times as likely as Black people and 1.4 times as likely as Hispanic people to have received a COVID-19 vaccine. according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of CDC data.
Nationally, white adults (57%) account for the largest share of unvaccinated adults, but Black and Hispanic people are still less likely than their white counterparts to have received a vaccine, the analysis found.
This leaves people of color at increased risks as the Delta variant spreads, although this racial vaccination gap is starting to narrow. From Aug. 2 to Aug. 16, Black and Hispanic vaccination rates increased by 2.5 percentage points and 2.6 percentage points, outpacing rates among white and Asian people, according to the Kaiser analysis.
Efforts like the Hispanic Center’s are aimed at further reducing these racial disparities since Black and Hispanic adults represent a larger share of the unvaccinated who are open to getting a shot compared to those staunchly opposed, who are largely white, to ever getting one.
The Hispanic Center’s played an active role in the Lehigh Valley’s COVID-19 response since the coronavirus was first detected in Pennsylvania in March 2020, coordinating referrals and outreach for rental assistance and distributing food to more than 4,000 individuals. It’s hosted clinics that vaccinated more than 1,500 residents, distributed personal protective equipment to over 400 people and engaged more than 3,600 residents in a Spanish-language COVID-19 vaccine informations session.
“We are honored to be recognized for our community-based approach to addressing the pandemic, and we are thrilled that we will be able to expand our efforts to reach more of our neighbors here in the Lehigh Valley at a moment when vaccination is more important than ever,” Montero said.
The grants were awarded through a competitive process and are funding by the CDC Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Google.org, Prologis Inc. and others. The CDC Foundation helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention save and improve lives through collaboration between the CDC, philanthropies, corporations, organizations and individuals, according to its website.
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Sara K. Satullo may be reached at email@example.com.