Promoting Equitable Access to COVID-19 Vaccines
Special Projects Fund
June 16, 2021
The pandemic struck New York City hard, especially in communities of color.
COVID-19 has sickened, hospitalized, and killed Black and Hispanic New Yorkers at more than double the rate of white New Yorkers. After months of persistently high rates, the number of new COVID-19 cases is falling, mainly as a result of increasing vaccination rates. Recently though, the number of daily vaccine doses administered has fallen, and stark disparities among people of color and across boroughs remain. New York City has addressed some access barriers, but supplemental efforts are needed. Traditional government and health care communications strategies have difficulty overcoming misinformation and mistrust, which is why messengers who have roots in the community are poised to build vaccine literacy, confidence, and trust and help guide residents through the vaccination process. In 2021, NYHealth awarded the Fund for Public Health in New York City a grant to support local partners in vaccination outreach and efforts, with a focus on communities of color disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Under this grant, community- and faith-based organizations partnered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to provide messaging, led community engagement, and offered one-on-one vaccine navigation assistance to residents. The partnerships prioritized communities of color that have been most affected by COVID-19 and have high rates of poverty and chronic illness. Participating organizations provided messaging refinement and delivery; community outreach and engagement; and/or high-touch navigation services all the way through to vaccination. DOHMH managed the network of partners and provided technical assistance on vaccine messages; developed frequently asked questions in simple and clear language; and trained on how to navigate online vaccine reservation systems.