The Biden administration has awarded millions of dollars to counter fear and misinformation in communities of color who have indicated they are concerned about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. Over the past three weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded more than $ 17 million to various organizations that plan vaccine education, according to the Department of Health and Human Services funding database.
Fifteen organizations that advocate for African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans have received funding to further their educational outreach about the COVID-19 vaccine. UnidosUS and the National Urban League received the largest grants, $ 3.2 million and $ 2 million, respectively.
People of color are more likely to get COVID-19 than white people, and black, Hispanic and Native American people are two to three times more likely to require hospitalization, according to data from the CDC.
Even at these rates, white Americans are getting vaccinated at a much higher rate than other racial minorities. As of February 22, more than 19 million people were fully vaccinated, 65% of whom are white, according to CDC data. About half of the states keep records with demographic information.
The Biden administration has not commented on CDC funding for the disclosure efforts, but an HHS official confirmed the coordinated disclosure.
Before COVID-19 vaccines were developed, vaccine hesitancy was more prominent among African Americans. A Pew Research Center survey last fall found that only 42% planned to get vaccinated, compared with 63% of Hispanic adults and 61% of whites. The survey noted that English-speaking Asian Americans were the most likely to receive a vaccine, with 83% saying they would.
Mistrust of health care persists in communities of color, stemming in part from past medical abuse by the federal government. Two of the most serious abuses occurred in the past 50 years: the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, which focused on black men for more than 40 years; and the sterilization of thousands of Native American women without their consent by the Indian Health Service in the 1970s.
The nonprofit arm of the National Conference of Black Churches received $ 1.56 million to encourage its parishioners to get vaccinated.
“Black churches have more contact with blacks even during the pandemic than any other organization in the country,” said Dr. Jacqui Burton, president of the conference. “Although we are not in our buildings, we continue to worship and serve.”
The conference hopes the money will help their efforts to provide vaccines in their churches as well.
In the coming weeks, this will be a “health ministry … touching people’s lives and putting vaccines in their arms,” said AME Bishop Adam J. Richardson.
Other organizations focus on closing the language gap to get reliable information.
The Asia Pacific Islands American Health Forum will use its $ 1.8 million award to address the “digital divide” in Asian American communities and offer additional simplified vaccination instructions in less-spoken but critical languages such as Samoan, Marshallese and chuukese, said CEO Juliet K. Choi.
Choi also said that online messages about vaccines would be prominent on popular communication platforms such as WeChat, WhatsApp and KaKao.
Overcoming the language barrier is also a priority for the American Indian Physicians Association, a group that received a grant of $ 950,000. Because tribal nations are sovereign, they can choose who to vaccinate. In some places like the Cherokee Nation, vaccines are a priority for those who maintain the language.
“One of the fundamental ways to sustain ourselves is to maintain our language and our traditions,” association president Dr. Mary Owen told CBS News. “They know that this is closely related to maintaining our state of health.”
If vaccinated through this outreach program, people can use another recent CDC purchase from the Immunization Action Coalition: $ 1 million worth of buttons and stickers promoting the message “I got my COVID-19 vaccine.” .
Max Bayer and Alex Tin contributed to this report.