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COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Initiative

Working to increase the number of people vaccinated in communities especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vaccine Equity Initiative works with the populations and communities hardest hit by COVID-19 to increase awareness and acceptance of the vaccine, access to vaccination locations, and vaccine administration rates. This approach is driven by community needs and is centered on equity, a core pillar of the state’s vaccine distribution plan, and is informed by the state’s COVID-19 Health Equity Advisory Group and the Vaccine Advisory Group

Table of Contents

Goals

  • Increase trust in the vaccine’s safety and efficacy, acknowledging that in many communities of color, mistrust and hesitancy can stem from a history of medical mistreatment.
  • Identify and reduce barriers for accessing the vaccine
  • Increase vaccine access for priority populations, through existing vaccination locations and mobile vaccination options.

20 prioritized communities

The 20 cities and towns are those hardest hit by COVID-19, taking into account case rates as well as the social determinants of health and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Over centuries, discriminatory and exclusionary policies and practices have shaped where people live and work. These factors are part of the social determinants of health and directly impact residents' health as well as their access to opportunities that promote health.

The 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.    

These cities and towns met the Massachusetts COVID-19 Advisory Group recommendation to prioritize communities using the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) and COVID-19 case rates since the start of the pandemic. Those communities were then ranked by average daily COVID-19 case rates in each city and town (excluding cases in long-term care and correctional facilities and communities with under 30,000 residents). From this ranked list by case rate, the top 17 cities and towns with the highest percentage of people of color were identified. The list of 20 cities and towns includes three additional communities to capture the top 15 communities with the highest daily COVID case rates.

Priority populations

The initiative focuses on the following populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19: 

  • Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Latinx individuals 
  • Individuals who do not speak English, or who prefer to speak in another language 
  • Individuals who do not have access to transportation, either personal or public, or who face barriers getting to a vaccination location
  • Individuals who do not feel comfortable receiving the vaccine in a traditional healthcare setting 
  • Individuals with disabilities and those who have access and functional needs
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness 
  • Individuals with mental illness and/or residents with substance use disorder 

This list of priority populations was determined by looking at individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, informed by case data and the COVID-19 Community Impact Survey, which DPH conducted in the fall of 2020. 

Vaccine allocation

To ensure vaccine is accessible to our most disproportionately impacted populations, the Commonwealth prioritizes vaccine to each of the 20 municipalities on a weekly basis, subject to program administration guidelines.

The 20 equity communities receive additional COVID-19 vaccine allocations for priority populations that are separate and apart from weekly allocations that come from the state and federal government to other providers (e.g. mass vaccination sites, regional collaboratives, community health centers and pharmacies). This additional weekly equity allocation is between 800 and 2,000 doses, based on municipality population.

The methodology for allocating weekly doses to reach priority populations is:

  • 800 doses per week for municipalities with population less than 50,000
  • 1,200 doses per week for municipalities with population greater than 50,000 and less than 100,000
  • 1,600 doses per week for municipalities with population greater than 100,000; 2,000 doses per week for Boston.

The 20 prioritized communities have been allocated a total of 169,750 equity vaccine doses as of June 14, 2021. 

Equity Initiative components

COVID-19 testing

There is also free COVID-19 testing available in all 20 communities, including the Stop the Spread program. Visit mass.gov/GetTested for more information.

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