Clackamas County providing $1.1M for vaccine equity
Clackamas County community partners, including 501(c)3 nonprofits and faith-based communities, have until Oct. 1 to apply for up to $30,000 in grant funding for each nonprofit group to boost vaccination access and education for communities with the lowest current rates.
Upcoming grants are part of the county's vaccine equity initiative for groups such as communities of color, low-income or unhoused individuals, and those with disabilities or mental illness. Begun in partnership with community organizations in May, the county's initiative is dedicated to "addressing equity in COVID-19 vaccine disparities."
Funding for these grants comes from the Oregon Health Authority's (OHA) $1.1 million contribution to Clackamas County's Public Health Division (CCPHD) to support vaccination efforts through Dec. 30.
Jamie Zentner, a CCPHD program planner, said during a virtual informational session July 22 that grant money will go towards "building vaccine confidence, connecting individuals with vaccine opportunities, and increasing access to COVID vaccines through community-based and customized distribution."
"Funding is intended for partners who are connected to communities and are well positioned to work on vaccine-related outreach, education and distribution," Zentner added, listing nonprofits, faith-based communities and organizations funded by OHA as eligible applicants.
Applications need to centralize "under-vaccinated communities" in their vaccine efforts and contribute to the vaccine goals outlined in the county's equity plan, including vaccinating "80% or greater of eligible populations and within race and ethnicity subgroups," Zentner said.
Adam Torres, the county's liaison to community-based organizations, said during the session that activities eligible for funding include "hosting or coordinating customized vaccine events" such as mobile clinics, providing vaccine events with "on-site support" including interpreters, staff or volunteers, providing "transportation assistance" to events and conducting other outreach and engagement efforts.
"Despite narrowing down fundable activities into these four categories, we're also open to creative ideas from our community partners that may not fit into these four categories," Torres said. "So if you or your organization have an idea, just inform us of your plan and we may be able to apply this grant funding toward it."
The county's vaccine equity plan outlines the growing issue with data CCPHD collected through ALERT, an immunization information system the health division uses to track and identify inequities or gaps in vaccine distribution by age range, zip code, race and ethnicity.
As of May 23, the county's largest non-white Hispanic community had the lowest vaccination rate at approximately 28%. Indigenous communities and Black communities were slightly higher, at roughly 34% and 37% respectively. By Aug. 1, vaccination rates rose to approximately 38% among Hispanic people, 47% among Indigenous populations, 49% Black and 51% white.
"The disparity in COVID-19 vaccination rates among different racial and ethnic groups across Clackamas County and Oregon is a direct reflection of multiple intersectional factors," local officials said in the plan, signed by County Commission Chair Tootie Smith, County Health Officer Sarah Present, M.D., and Public Health Director Philip Mason-Joyner.
"Early vaccine prioritization by the state focused on healthcare workers and educators — two professions where people of color are largely underrepresented," the county officials wrote. "Consequently, our communities of color did not have equitable access to vaccine from the onset of vaccine administration and are now in the position of trying to catch up."
"Systemic racism, both current and historic, contributes to mistrust of government and the health care industry among communities of color, particularly the Latinx community in Clackamas County," officials continued, adding that online scheduling platforms added disadvantages for non-English speakers and those with limited digital access, and mass vaccination sites disadvantaged those without access to transportation or conflicting work hours.
Officials also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic was a "catalyst and opportunity" for many organizations serving marginalized groups to work in Clackamas County for the first time, due to the county having a lower marginalized population than Multnomah County and other counties in the state.
To learn more about the county's vaccine equity plan, click here.
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