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New COVID Vaccine Grant Supports PA Orgs Tackling Hesitancy

by Emily Scott, Keystone State News Connection

Oct 19, 2021

Pennsylvania hit a milestone last week with 70% of adults fully vaccinated – but there’s still work to be done. A new grant program aims to support community organizations to address vaccine hesitancy and other barriers.

The state Department of Community and Economic Development’s $5 million COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach Grant Program is open to any nonprofit or educational institution in the state and can go toward funding vaccine-related events, volunteer training, and technical support.

During a Friday event in North Philadelphia highlighting the grant, state Sen. Vincent Hughes – D-Philadelphia – cited ongoing vaccine disparities in some city neighborhoods as a reason for the program.

“If you go to the Overbrook section, 38% vaccine rate,” said Hughes. “If you go to the Logan section, 38% vaccine rate. Those are largely Black and brown communities, and so we need to get the help necessary so they can drive the message and make sure that folks get the vaccine.”

Organizations can receive grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000. The deadline to apply is November 1.

Dr. Elana McDonald is the owner and medical director of Memphis Street Pediatrics in North Philadelphia, and has worked with state leaders on dispelling COVID vaccine myths.

She said trusted messengers with local organizations are vital to improving vaccine rates, especially in communities of color that have been mistreated by the medical system in the past.

“This is our home and it is important for us to get the message out to people who look like us,” said McDonald. “We understand that there is a huge mistrust of the government of the medical establishment. But we’re here to say that we are physicians, we are from your community. The vaccine is safe. The vaccine is effective.”

Pennsylvania is seventh in the nation for first COVID shots administered.

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