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Ensuring Equity in COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

To ensure our nation’s underserved communities and those disproportionately affected by COVID-19 are equitably vaccinated against COVID-19, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a program to directly allocate COVID-19 vaccine to HRSA-supported health centers.

During the first phase of the program, HRSA invited 250 health centers to participate. To further expand the program and accelerate the delivery of vaccines to medically underserved communities and disproportionately affected populations, HRSA and CDC invited an additional 700 health centers to participate, increasing the total number of invited health centers to 950. As of April 7, HRSA and CDC are inviting all HRSA-funded health centers and Health Center Program look-alikes (LALs) to participate in the program, increasing its reach to 1,470 health centers nationwide.

HRSA-funded health centers are community-based and patient-directed organizations that deliver affordable, accessible, quality, and cost-effective primary health care to nearly 30 million patients each year. Over 91% of health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and nearly 63% are racial/ethnic minorities. Health centers across the nation are playing vital roles in supporting local community responses to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Health Center Selections

The initial 250 health centers invited to this program include those that serve a large volume of one of the following disproportionately affected populations:

  • Individuals experiencing homelessness,
  • Public housing residents,
  • Migrant/seasonal agricultural workers, or
  • Patients with limited English proficiency

The second group of 700 health centers invited to participate in this program included those that:

  • Serve high proportions of low income and minority patients,
  • Provide services to rural/frontier populations,
  • Operate Tribal/Urban Indian Health Programs, and/or
  • Utilize mobile vans to deliver services

The third and final group of 520 health centers includes all remaining HRSA-supported health centers expanding access to COVID-19 vaccinations for underserved communities and vulnerable populations across the country.

Vaccine supply will be in addition to jurisdictional supply

The allocation provided for this program is separate from jurisdictions’ weekly allocations. The federal government is providing vaccines to health centers as a way to increase access to vaccines for health centers serving the nation’s underserved communities and disproportionately affected populations.

Health centers in states or jurisdictions that have not yet expanded vaccination eligibility criteria to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP’s) Phase 1c tier, and that receive a direct allocation through their participation in the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program, may utilize this allocation for any populations that meet the ACIP Phase 1c tier criteria. This includes essential workers not included in Phase 1b, persons aged 65 to 74 years, and persons aged 16-64 years with high-risk medical conditions. This represents approximately 83% of the adult patients seen at health centers, enabling more people in need to receive vaccinations.

With respect to state allocated vaccine doses in states or jurisdictions that have not yet initiated ACIP’s designated Phase 1c, current relevant state prioritization requirements apply unless an exception is granted by the state.

If the health center’s state/jurisdiction has already expanded eligibility beyond the CDC ACIP Tier 1c groups, health centers may utilize both their Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program allocation and their state allocation to vaccinate all populations that are currently eligible within that state/jurisdiction.

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