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Statewide vaccine equity efforts could see a philanthropic boost

A COVID-19 relief campaign started by All in WA is building a vaccine equity fund to raise $15 million from philanthropic partners to address hesitancy and increase access .

The money raised will match state funding for vaccine outreach in Washington and be distributed to community organizations and local groups through a grant program.

The goal of the campaign is to provide help to local, community-based groups that can increase access to culturally relevant information about the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as improve access for people to actually getting vaccinated by eliminating barriers like language, transportation or internet access.

Inequities exist in COVID-19 case, hospitalization, death and vaccination data. Minorities have been hit hard by the pandemic, and on the whole, have had greater challenges thus far in accessing the vaccine .

Gov. Jay Inslee told reporters Monday that of the 3.6% of the state’s Hispanic population currently eligible for the vaccine, 2.5% had been vaccinated.

The All in WA organization will open up grants to community-based organizations in the coming weeks.

The funds can be used to pay community organizations to help register people for vaccine appointments or facilitate community-based clinics. The grants can also be used to train leaders, to create campaigns around vaccine hesitancy or to provide transportation assistance.

All in WA, a coalition of private and public companies and nonprofits, helps secure funding from donors who want to contribute to statewide pandemic relief efforts.

The group has also facilitated grant programs and community funds during the pandemic, with help from donors like Amazon, Microsoft and other companies.

On a press conference announcing the equity fund Monday, Inslee said that three of four mass vaccination sites are in Eastern Washington in order to give more access to Hispanic communities, who have been hit harder by the virus.

Local leaders on the same call pointed out that these sites have some barriers to entry in some communities, however.

“It’s not reaching the people who can’t go online and register or don’t have transportation to get to those events,” said Jesus Hernandez, CEO of Family Health Centers in Okanogan County.

All in WA hopes that grants to community-based organizations can help remedy those issues.

Some vaccination sites have already made adjustments to how Washington residents can access appointments. Initially, residents had to go online to make appointments at the mass vaccination sites, but now some appointment slots are reserved for people who do not have internet access and need to make an appointment via telephone.

Inslee said the state’s goals in vaccination are first to help people want to get the vaccine, and also to increase vaccine access. About 20% of the state’s vaccine doses are being sent to community health centers in order to increase equitable access, Inslee said.

Most state vaccination sites are only administering second doses this week, but the Spokane Arena site will have about 4,000 first- dose appointments available this week starting on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

CHAS Health is asking people with internet access make an appointment online. There will also be CHAS staff available to make appointments for people unable to make them online at (509) 444-8200.

A look at local numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 54 new cases on Monday and no new deaths.

There are 64 patients with COVID-19 currently hospitalized in Spokane.

The Panhandle Health District did not update its COVID-19 data on Monday.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.