Maryland will get more than $54 million from federal sources to help distribute COVID-19 vaccine to underserved populations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday.
The $54.6 million is set to go to local health departments, community groups and others to increase uptake of the vaccine and ensure greater equity and access.
Minority groups, including Black and Hispanic people, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Hesitancy to getting the vaccine has been documented among some minorities but access has been identified as a larger barrier for many.
The administration of Gov. Larry Hogan has faced criticism for the disparities in its vaccine rollout, sending more vaccine to rural areas and vaccinating disproportionate numbers of white people. Hogan has moved to level the playing field by forming a task force and dedicating vaccine to certain populations, such as doses for city residents set aside at the Baltimore Convention Center.
The latest federal money, which is part of a broader program to address disparities, comes from $3 billion granted to states by the CDC to bolster local vaccination efforts. The funding was included in the American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
“We are doing everything we can to expand access to vaccinations,” said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the CDC director, in a statement. “Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic. This investment will support state and local health departments and community-based organizations as they work on the frontlines to increase vaccine access, acceptance, and uptake.”
The CDC says 75% of the money will fund specific programs to increase access and acceptance among racial and ethnic minorities. About 60% must go to local health departments, community-based organizations and community health centers.
The funds could go to awareness campaigns, door-to-door outreach or help signing people up for appointments. It also could go to train community health workers in culturally competent bilingual health outreach.