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caption: Doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are drawn out during a vaccine clinic set up by the Othello Station Pharmacy and the Somali Health Board to vaccinate roughly 100 seniors in the community on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, at The Brighton Apartments, a complex for seniors, on Rainier Avenue South in Seattle.
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Doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine are drawn out during a vaccine clinic set up by the Othello Station Pharmacy and the Somali Health Board to vaccinate roughly 100 seniors in the community on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, at The Brighton Apartments, a complex for seniors, on Rainier Avenue South in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Philanthropists' $15M 'vaccine equity initiative' will target hardest to reach in WA

The Seattle Foundation and its partners say they’re seeking to raise $15 million in private donations towards a vaccine equity fund, to be matched by public dollars. The money is intended to help eliminate disparities in access to the Covid-19 vaccine across Washington state.

The funding will be directed to community organizations providing vaccine outreach and access to the elderly, people of color, immigrants and people in remote areas.

Jesus Hernandez is CEO of Family Health Centers in Okanogan County. He said the state’s mass vaccination sites are a good step toward achieving herd immunity, but some populations can’t access them.

“It’s not reaching the people who can’t go online and register, or don’t have transportation to get to these mass vaccination events,” he said.

Officials say they’ve responded by setting aside 20% of the appointments for people booking by phone, and choosing sites with the best transit connections.

King County said it’s having some success reaching people who are Black, Indigenous and people of color at its mass vaccination sites in Kent and Auburn. They make up 43% of vaccine recipients at those sites, which is more than double the total countywide for those demographics.

Beyond the technical barriers of computer access and transportation, partners in the vaccine equity fund say they will provide accurate information and multi-lingual outreach through trusted community advocates to urge people to get vaccinated.

One partner is Reverend Walter Kendricks, a Baptist minister in Spokane. He said he has been speaking about this issue from his pulpit.

“Our history is, we’re somewhat leery of the healthcare apparatus in this nation,” he said. “But we have to get this vaccine so the ministerial fellowship of Spokane has been pushing this message.”

Officials say their efforts are showing progress, Governor Jay Inslee said Hispanics make up 3.6% of the population that is eligible for the vaccine under current age guidelines, and 2.5% of recipients have been Hispanic so far.

“We’re on our way” he said.

Inslee said he wants to make sure Hispanic workers in the agriculture and food processing sector receive the vaccine in the next wave, when essential workers will become eligible. He said this outreach to community organizations will help insure that Hispanic workers aren’t “bumped or made subordinate” to other essential workers like bus drivers and childcare workers.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said the city has been working with community organizations to host vaccination events where the organization contacts its community members, and the city firefighters bring the vaccine. She said so far the city has administered the vaccine to 4,300 residents in 86 adult family homes, 28 senior housing projects, and six community pop-ups.

She said 75% of vaccine recipients in the city’s efforts have been from BIPOC communities.