Community health centers to get $6 billion from HHS for vaccine programs

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The Biden administration on Thursday said HHS will give approximately 1,400 community health centers across the country $6 billion to expand COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and treatment to vulnerable populations.

The funding, which Congress appropriated through the most recent relief bill, will be distributed by HHS starting next month as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to ensure communities of color, low-income populations and people living in rural areas receive COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatment.

The funding can also be used by health centers to pay for preventive and primary healthcare services for people at higher risk for COVID-19 and expand operational capacity to treat more patients.

That can include improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units, HHS announced.

While communities of color are disproportionately getting COVID-19 and dying from it, they’re least likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine due in part to access issues. According to the most recent CDC data, only 8% of people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the U.S. were Black; 9% were Hispanic and 66% were white.

Community health centers are a good way to reach communities of color, experts say, because about 60% of their patients are racial or ethnic minorities. The $6 billion is a significant funding boost for community health centers, doubling what they get from Congress in a typical year.

The Biden administration also announced that dialysis clinics will receive COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate their patients. About 34% of the 500,000 people receiving regular dialysis care in the U.S. are Black and 19% are Hispanic, according to the administration.

People on dialysis are more likely to become seriously ill and die if they contract COVID-19.

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