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Under fire from lawmakers, Gov. Charlie Baker pours new funding the COVID vaccination effort

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

Updated: Jan. 13, 2022, 4:49 p.m. | Published: Jan. 13, 2022, 4:49 p.m. Source Below

Two days after Beacon Hill lawmakers grilled Gov. Charlie Bakerabout increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates across Massachusetts and overcoming stark racial disparities amid the omicron-induced surge, his administration on Thursday announced $13.5 million in new funding.

The money, part of the Massachusetts Vaccine Equity Initiative, is earmarked for community organizations in cities and towns disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. State officials said the grants — made possible through federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — are intended to “increase awareness, acceptance and access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“These trusted community-based organizations and leaders know their communities and neighborhoods best,” Acting Department of Public Health Commissioner Margret Cooke said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “These organizations expand and amplify the efforts of our Vaccine Equity Initiative by helping address the immediate and long-term health equity needs in priority communities — needs that have been exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”

Baker, testifying on Tuesday to the Joint Committee on COVID-19 and Emergency Preparedness and Management, said he was “all in” on ensuring more adults and children get their vaccine and booster shots. But the governor admitted pediatric vaccinations were proving to be a “more difficult sell” than anticipated.

“If there are things we aren’t doing in your areas, in your communities that you think would be helpful — either with your school districts, with your community health centers, with your faith organizations, with your kid programs — you should let us know what they are,” Baker had told lawmakers during a virtual hearing. “And we’ll do what we can to double-down on that because I want them to get vaccinated just as much as you.”

The majority of the grant dollars — $10.65 million — will help launch the Massachusetts Community Health Workers for Resilient Communities program, state officials said. Ten organizations, situated in nine priority communities, are slated to receive three-year grants for ramping up COVID vaccination efforts among community health workers and local boards of health.

The recipients include: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Whittier Street Health Center, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, Cambridge Health Alliance - Everett Care Center, Cambridge Health Alliance - Malden Care Center, Cambridge Health Alliance - Revere Care CenterLowell Community Health Center, Baystate Health and Caring Health Center, and Family Health Center of Worcester.

The Massachusetts Department of Public on Thursday said $675,000 was allocated to establish a vaccine equity program for rural communities. Nine community organizations will receive $75,000 each.

Those recipients include: Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, CHNA 9 (North Central), CHNA 9 (East Quabbin), Island Health, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition North Quabbin Community Coalition, Outer Cape Community Solutions, Southern Berkshire Rural Health Network and the town of Ware.

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