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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.

During the period when vaccine supply was limited, the 20 equity communities received additional COVID-19 vaccine allocations for priority populations, separate and apart from weekly allocations that came from the state and federal government to other providers (e.g., vaccination sites, regional collaboratives, community health centers, and pharmacies).

Between March 3, 2021 and July 30, 2021, the 20 prioritized municipalities were allocated a total of 175,882 equity vaccine doses. As of the end of July 2021, all COVID vaccination providers may directly order vaccine without restrictions.

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. 

Funding for Community Organizations

To date, a total of 149 community organizations have been awarded over $32 million through the Vaccine Equity Initiative; this includes community-based and faith-based organizations, Tribal and Indigenous People Serving Organizations, Community Health Centers, and other community-based healthcare organizations. Many of these organizations work across multiple communities, and 28 of them are funded through multiple components of the initiative (for example, a Community Health Center may provide Vaccine Access and Administration in community settings and receive funding for Community Health Worker ambassadors).

In addition to the above funding for community organizations, the Vaccine Equity Initiative has provided a total of $4,739,816 to municipalities and Local Boards of Health in the priority communities (this is a small part of overall funding to municipalities and Local Boards of Health for COVID response). Information can be found COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Initiative: Support for municipalities and local boards of health | Mass.gov and COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Initiative: Additional funding supports for local boards of health | Mass.gov.

The table below displays funding to community organizations for each component of the Vaccine Equity Initiative.

Component Total Organizations Funded Total Funding Amount
Focused grassroots outreach (ASG/HCFA) 35 $10,000,000
Tailored community and faith- based outreach and education (HRiA) 61 $5,300,000 
Investments in community health centers (CHCs)* 43 $6,100,000 
Vaccine access and administration in community settings (VAA)** 31 $10,600,000
Tribes, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Indigenous Peoples 7 $309,115
Total 149 $32,309,115

*This funding is one part of several Federal and State initiatives to provide financial support Community Health Centers for COVID response. 

**This funding is one component in a broader statewide mobile COVID vaccination initiative.

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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