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Washington fund aims to boost COVID-19 vaccine equity in BIPOC, rural communities

Washington’s new Vaccine Equity Fund partners with community-based organizations to vaccinate communities hit hardest by COVID-19.

SEATTLE — Washington state leaders announced a new fund Monday aimed at improving access to the COVID-19 vaccine in communities disproportionately impacted by the virus.

"Now is the time to address these inequities," said Lilliane Ballesteros, executive director of the Latino Community Fund. "Now is the time to mobilize our collective resources quickly to those in need and those best position to help them. The vaccine initiative is, we think, a critical step forward for recovery."

The Vaccine Equity Fund, which will be led by All In WA, will help create mobile vaccine teams and send funds to community-based organizations that can conduct linguistically and culturally-specific vaccine education and outreach as well as operate pop-up clinics.

The funds could be used for technical assistance to aid vaccine registration, transportation to help people get to vaccine sites or paying for staff, facilities and equipment needed for pop-up and mobile vaccine clinics, according to All In WA. Grants could also help community organizations expand outreach and coordination, train community leaders, distribute translated materials and targeted communications and develop phone and text banking.

Targeted populations include communities of color, immigrants and refugees and rural and remote communities.

All In WA aims to raise $15 million to match government dollars, which could total $30 million in funding.

A report released last week from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) found racial disparities in COVID-19 vaccinations, especially among Hispanic, Black and multiracial communities.

The disparity is highest among Hispanic people. Although Hispanic people make up 13.2% of Washington’s population, just 4.7% have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot.

Black people make up 3.9% of Washington’s population, but only 2.2% have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.

Asian and Native American people are both overrepresented in vaccine efforts, according to the report.

The public can make donations to the Vaccine Equity Fund on All In WA's website.

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