Brief

State awards $8 million to encourage COVID-19 vaccination, greater health equity

By: - December 9, 2021 1:43 pm
Young woman receiving a vaccine shot against a virus

Unvaccinated people have become a reservoir for the far more contagious delta (and other) variants, allowing infection to spread — even among the fully vaccinated | Getty Images

Faced with persistent gaps in vaccination rates for COVID-19 across Wisconsin, the state health department has awarded $8.1 million to more than four dozen organizations to help increase vaccine uptake among populations and areas where it has been lagging.

The funds are aimed at improving health equity, according to the Department of Health Services (DHS), which awarded grants to reach a wide range of population groups and communities with lower vaccination rates. Programs include those serving residents of diverse rural areas, urban and rural Black residents, diverse aging populations, Hmong residents, Somali and Latinx communities, immigrants from the Middle East, Native American tribes and others.

Many of the grant recipients and their projects focus on communication with people in specific communities. “Awardees will use culturally relevant information and engage in outreach to promote vaccine acceptance,” DHS stated in its announcement of the grants.

DHS data show that communities of color have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic. In Wisconsin, Latinx/Hispanic people have been nearly 1.5 times as likely to have a positive COVID-19 test as white people. And compared with white people who have had COVID-19, Black people with the illness have been nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized, and Native Americans have been 1.4 times as likely to die.

Nevertheless, the percentage of people in all three groups who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 lags behind the vaccination rate for white people.

There also are sharp disparities in vaccination rates in the state regardless of race or ethnicity. In rural Clark and Taylor counties, barely one-third of residents are fully vaccinated, compared with more than 70% of residents of Dane, Door and Menominee counties. Several of the grant recipients’ programs include outreach to rural communities and residents.

The grants announced Thursday are part of $13 million in money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that DHS has provided for vaccine outreach. The department is seeking additional applications for about $4.9 million remaining.

DHS also issued $6.2 million in grants earlier this year for similar outreach work.

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Erik Gunn
Erik Gunn

Deputy Editor Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, health policy and related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.

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