COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Initiative: Rural Vaccine Program

Supporting community-led vaccination and mitigation in rural regions of the state

Table of Contents

Background and funding

Rural communities in Massachusetts have faced special challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic due to demographic makeup, geography, and limited infrastructure. The more limited availability of healthcare services and public health resources in rural regions has resulted in barriers for residents - whether they are attempting to access COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment, or vaccination.

Rural communities also have higher burdens of chronic disease (such as obesity, pulmonary diseases, and cardiac diseases), which can increase COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.

Extreme isolation, due to both geographic barriers (mountains, reservoirs, rivers) and limited infrastructure (transportation, broadband, social and clinical services), have exacerbated these challenges, as has a historical mistrust of government among some rural communities.

The Rural Vaccine Program takes these factors into account. Led by the Massachusetts State Office of Rural Health, this program provides targeted support to rural community-based organizations to meet immediate needs for COVID-19 mitigation and put in place longer-term strategies to build resilience against factors that have contributed to poor outcomes during the pandemic.

Through the Massachusetts Vaccine Equity Initiative, community-based organizations serving rural regions will each receive $75,000 in year one, beginning in January 2022. Funds and technical assistance will be administered via the New England Rural Health Association.

The New England Rural Health Association holds the contract to administer funds and provide technical assistance to the community-based organizations funded through this initiative. The New England Rural Health Association aims to improve the health and wellbeing of communities throughout rural New England by promoting solutions to the unique health challenges facing rural areas.

Amount $975,000 (funded organizations will receive $75,000 each)
Led by New England Rural Health Association
Relevant dates Funding began in January 2022.

Any non-funded regions can still be supported through technical assistance. Please contact the State Office of Rural Health to be connected with this resource.

For more information about this program, please email State Office of Rural Health Project Coordinator Kirby Lecy at


The following services will be offered:

  • Providing technical assistance such as:
    • Community engagement principals and best practices to encourage robust projects of the community-based organizations (CBOs) that uplift community members’ priorities and values
    • Sharing best practices for preventing COVID-19 regarding testing, outreach and educational services, support for individuals who face barriers to being able to isolate or quarantine and providing vaccines
    • Helping identify the root causes of the high rates of rural chronic disease (obesity, pulmonary diseases, cardiac diseases) that increase COVID-19 morbidity and mortality
    • Building relationships throughout the community: public health, clinical services, housing, education, business, etc. and linking to related partnerships and coalitions
    • Developing communication/messaging and methods that increase knowledge, understanding, and awareness of the connections between health inequities and COVID-19, particularly for non-health-focused colleagues and partners
  • Funding and engaging partners through a competitive process (CBO, faith-based agency, nonprofit, etc.) within rural regions to strengthen rural infrastructure and address root causes as it relates to COVID-19
  • Coordinating a peer learning network for funded regions to share information, build understanding and support of evidence-based, best practice, and promising practice approaches to health equity
  • Increasing capacity of community partners to use culturally appropriate, data-driven, and evidence-based approaches to identify and sustain health equity practices or support community strategies that address their unique needs

Regions served

Eligible regions include Blackstone Valley, Central Berkshires, East Franklin, East Quabbin, Hilltowns, Lower/Outer Cape, Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, North Central, North Quabbin, Northern Berkshires, Southern Berkshires, Quaboag Valley, and West Franklin.

Eligible regions and the distribution of funds are being determined in accordance with the Massachusetts State Office of Rural Health’s rural definition.

Local community partners

The funded organizations listed below will cover a total of 143 rural communities.

Organization Rural Region Served Municipalities
Berkshire Regional Planning Commission Central Berkshires Becket, Dalton, Hancock, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, Peru, Richmond, Washington, Windsor
CHNA 9 North Central Ashburnham, Ashby, Boylston, Clinton, Hubbardston, Lancaster, Princeton, Sterling, Templeton, Townsend, Westminster
CHNA 9 East Quabbin Barre, Hardwick, New Braintree, Oakham, Paxton, Rutland
Island Health Martha’s Vineyard Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Gosnold, Oaks Bluffs, Tisbury, West Tisbury
Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Northern Berkshires Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, New Ashford, North Adams, Savoy, Williamstown
North Quabbin Community Coalition North Quabbin Athol, Erving, New Salem, Orange, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, Warwick, Wendell
Outer Cape Community Solutions Lower/Outer Cape Brewster, Chatham, Eastham, Orleans, Provincetown, Truro, Wellfleet
Southern Berkshire Rural Health Network Southern Berkshires Alford, Egremont, Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Monterey, Mount Washington, New Marlborough, Otis, Sandisfield, Sheffield, Stockbridge, Tyringham, West Stockbridge
Community Health Collaborative/Town of Ware Quaboag Valley Belchertown, Brimfield, Brookfield, East Brookfield, Holland, Monson, North Brookfield, Palmer, Wales, Ware, Warren, West Brookfield
Hilltown CDC Hilltowns Blandford, Chester, Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Granville, Huntington, Middlefield, Montgomery, Plainfield, Russell, Southampton, Southwick, Tolland, Westhampton, Williamsburg, Worthington
Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) East Franklin Bernardston, Deerfield, Gill, Greenfield, Leverett, Leyden, Montague, Northfield, Shutesbury, Sunderland, Whately
Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) West Franklin Ashfield, Buckland, Charlemont, Colrain, Conway, Hawley, Heath, Monroe, Rowe, Shelburne
Nantucket Board of Health/Health Imperatives/Community Foundation for Nantucket Nantucket Nantucket
Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) Blackstone Valley Charlton, Douglas, Mendon, Sturbridge, Sutton, Upton

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