CCI Health & Wellness Services, a local community health center serving Montgomery County and Prince George’s County in Maryland, is the first health center in the state selected to participate in the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program. The program seeks to ensure Equity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution. It is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to ramp up the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to some of the country’s hardest-hit populations.
“Equity is our north star here. This effort to focus on direct allocation to the Community Health Centers really is about connecting with those hard-to-reach populations across the country,” said Marcella Nunez-Smith, Chair of the White House COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, in a briefing to announce the vaccine program.
The vaccine program’s initial phase will target 250 health centers across the country and complement existing local efforts to vaccinate against COVID-19 equitably. For this first phase, selected health centers were chosen because they serve a large volume of disproportionately affected populations. The effort targets explicitly individuals experiencing homelessness, those in public housing, migrant or seasonal agricultural workers, or patients with limited English proficiency.
CCI serves over 60,000 individuals in the area through its five medical sites. 66 percent of those patients are best served in a language other than English. The organization also provides care to a large refugee population. Recognizing its patients would be severely impacted by COVID-19, CCI has maintained its doors open throughout the pandemic offering mostly in-person care and telehealth services when needed.
The health center has also equipped patients with ER avoidance kits, chronic disease management kits—for those with hypertension and diabetes—and is in the process of distributing transportation kits to mitigate the COVID-19 risk to their patients who must take public transportation.
“We fully embrace our responsibility to care for the households within our service area, especially those who face added obstacles to stay healthy. This program empowers us to continue our efforts to end healthcare disparities and bolster health equity,” said Sonya Bruton, PSY.D., MPA, Chief Executive Officer, and President. “Our greatest weapon in primary care is prevention, and it has helped us limit the devastation experienced by the populations we serve most. The Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program supports our efforts to protect and prevent negative outcomes and provide much-needed peace of mind for our patients.”
Eventually, vaccines will become available to all 1,400 community health center organizations across the states. Since the pandemic began, health centers have tested more than 8 million patients and worked tirelessly to help keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. Community health centers are the largest primary care network of providers in the United States and serve more than 30 million people across the country, many of whom live at or below the federal poverty line.