New Jersey nixed on federal funding to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates

New Jersey once again lost out on federal funding as the national public health agency distributed $2.3 million to health centers in 12 states to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among vulnerable populations, but Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez did not respond to questions about it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) and the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), has awarded $2.3 million to 15 health centers in 12 states to support the Community Vaccine Ambassador Project.

The Vaccine Ambassador Project will focus on increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates among three specific populations: people experiencing homelessness; individuals with substance use disorders; and individuals engaged in sex work.

All three groups are at increased risk for COVID-19 infection but have experienced barriers to accessing health care.

State and local efforts are underway to address concerns raised by minority groups which could particularly benefit from a program aimed at underserved communities. Many individuals within those groups also may have low levels of trust in the medical system due to previous experiences of trauma or stigma.

Although white residents in the Garden State appear more than three times more likely to get immunized than Black residents, New Jersey was excluded from this federal grant.

The Vaccine Ambassador Project will use trusted ambassadors — such as outreach workers, peer navigators, and people with lived experience of homelessness or substance use – to provide vaccination education and information to these individuals.

The 15 recipient programs are:

• Affinia Healthcare (St. Louis, MO)
• Alameda County Health Care for the Homeless (Oakland, CA)
• Alluvion Health (Great Falls, MT)
• Camillus Health Concern, Inc. (Miami, FL)
• Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (Denver, CO)
• Columbus Neighborhood Health Center, dba PrimaryOne Health (Columbus, OH)
• CrescentCare (New Orleans, LA)
• Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (Lawrence, MA)
• JWCH Institute Inc. (Los Angeles, CA)
• OPTIMUS Health Care (Bridgeport, CT)
• Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners (Clearwater, FL)
• Public Health Management Corporation (Philadelphia, PA)
• Union Community Health Center, Inc. (Bronx, NY)
• The Wright Center for Community Health (Scranton, PA)
• Yakima Neighborhood Health Services (Yakima, WA)

“We appreciate the commitment of the CDC and NACHC, as well as all of the award recipients, to support vulnerable populations with vaccinations,” said Bobby Watts, CEO of the National Health Care for the Homeless Council. “We hope our combined efforts to improve access and education will lead to increased vaccination rates and better health outcomes for people who are so often overlooked.”

According to New Jersey’s vaccination data, white residents have received 48% of the doses administered; Hispanics have gotten 5% of the shots; and Black residents have received 3% of the COVID-19 vaccines so far.

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