Investing in Vaccine Equity

In 2020, Rose Community Foundation directed the bulk of our grantmaking dollars to a multi-faceted, equity-focused response to COVID-19, targeting support toward the people and organizations in our community that were most impacted by the pandemic. Now, with comprehensive deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine representing our best chance at bringing an end to the pandemic, we are committed to supporting equitable and effective vaccine administration in the Greater Denver region.

Though there is much to be celebrated about recent vaccination efforts – as of April 12, over 1.9 million doses have been administered in seven-county metro Denver and weekly vaccination rates are steadily increasing – troubling disparities persist. While over 48 percent of the region’s white population have received at least one vaccine dose, less than 29 percent of Black people and 20 percent of Hispanic people have been vaccinated. And wealthier, whiter counties like Boulder and Douglas are administering vaccines at higher rates than less wealthy, more diverse counties like Adams and Arapahoe, despite overall COVID-19 case counts being proportionally higher in the latter counties.

To mitigate these gaps, Rose Community Foundation has funded several efforts to increase access to the vaccine, specifically in communities that are experiencing barriers to access and/or have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Our investments empower community-informed and trusted organizations and coalitions in historically marginalized and currently underfunded communities to lead vaccine education, messaging and infrastructure efforts.

“Community-based health and wellness agencies and safety-net clinics that already have trust within diverse communities and racial-ethnic minorities need to play a central role in increasing access and reducing hesitancy,” explains Alok Sarwal, co-founder and CEO of the Colorado Alliance for Health Equity and Practice, a Foundation grantee. “Community-oriented clinics are able to reach and serve people who are facing barriers to vaccination, such as not speaking English or lacking health insurance. We are able to conduct culturally competent, targeted outreach that mass vaccination sites simply are not able to.”

The Foundation has provided funding to over 30 community organizations that are hosting pop-up clinics throughout Greater Denver. We also helped launch Together We Protect, Colorado’s COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Fund and the Colorado Vaccine Equity Taskforce, a pair of partnerships created to ensure vaccine access for communities facing systemic barriers. We are also supporting the Vaccine Communications Roundtable and Colorado Media Project’s Informed Communities Fund, both of which aim to provide accurate, culturally relevant information about the vaccine to communities of color and other impacted groups.

These investments are already helping grant recipients deliver vaccines to underserved communities. The Gyedi’s Project’s most recent pop-up clinic vaccinated 851 individuals, 75 percent of whom were people of color, while Adelante Community Development, a Latino-serving community organization, is working in partnership with the city of Aurora to administer 50,000 vaccinations over the next six months.

“It has been great to witness the collaborative efforts taking place in our community to ensure equitable vaccine administration,” says Yoal Ghebremeskel, co-founder and executive director of Street Fraternity, a grantee partner serving the East Colfax neighborhood of Denver and Aurora. “We are partnering with individual volunteers and community-based organizations to provide outreach, accessible information and a pop-up clinic that is proximate to individuals of low-income status, former refugees and immigrants, and veterans.” Disabled American Veterans is supporting Street Fraternity’s vaccine-equity efforts by providing space for its Community COVID Vaccination Site.

Collectively, these partnerships will increase vaccine access and reduce vaccine hesitancy for those in our community who are furthest from opportunity. Visit our website to learn more about each of our efforts to support equitable vaccine administration.

Photo: Maisha Fields, nurse practitioner and member of the Colorado Vaccine Equity Taskforce, at a COVID vaccine clinic in Aurora. Photo courtesy of Sonya Doctorian for Colorado Vaccine Equity Taskforce.

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