A series of initiatives has been announced building on the state’s work to vaccinate California’s hard-to-reach communities against COVID-19. The effort will also address vaccine hesitancy and drive innovative efforts in the communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
New efforts focus on direct appointment assistance; community outreach including neighborhood canvassing, phone banking and text banking; at-home vaccinations and transportation services; and an additional $33 million in funding, bringing the total to $85.7 million, to support community-based organizations.
“We’re at a pivotal moment in our COVID-19 vaccine rollout – more than 30 million doses have been administered in California to date, and it’s going to take some new approaches to reach those who haven’t been vaccinated yet,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “These enhanced initiatives build on the community-based approach the state has taken throughout this crisis, in order to ensure vaccines are easily within reach of more people.”
In addition, building on the bipartisan work done during the “Wear A Mask” campaign, California Governors Newsom, Jerry Brown, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson have come together to encourage all Californians to get vaccinated.
About 60 percent of eligible Californians have received at least one dose and anyone age 16 and up is now eligible to receive the vaccine. As the number of unvaccinated Californians narrows, the state’s robust vaccine performance management system has helped determine where to focus efforts.
Californians needing a vaccination can schedule an appointment at MyTurn.ca.gov or by calling the CA COVID-19 hotline at (833) 422-4255 (Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) for assistance.
To bolster vaccine access in hard-to-reach communities, the state is moving away from mass vaccination sites and toward more targeted outreach with small clinics in communities with the highest disease burden. This move will make it easier for people to access vaccines. Mobile sites will continue to operate in partnership with places of worship throughout the state, as well as in coordination with businesses, school districts and local health departments where vaccination efforts are already underway.
These new initiatives build on the state’s Vaccine Equity Metric (VEM) that started in early March to send double the amount of doses to those communities facing the highest disease burden, defined as those Zip codes in the lowest quartile in the Healthy Places Index (HPI). Since the VEM went into effect, California has dedicated 40 percent of the state’s supply of doses to the lowest HPI quartile to improve equity in vaccinations.
An estimated 53 percent of individuals in the lowest quartile still need COVID-19 vaccinations, while just 28 percent of individuals in the highest quartile remain unvaccinated. Since January, California has accelerated its pace of vaccination and now exceeds the national average.
“One of the most important responsibilities of government is to make sure that the most vulnerable receive equal protection, especially during a crisis,” said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, California Surgeon General. “These enhanced efforts aim to meet people where they are while building upon California’s ongoing commitments to ensure that equity is guiding our overall strategy.”
The Governor announced several new and enhanced equity strategies in the state’s vaccine rollout.
More Transparency on Vaccination Progress – The state’s covid19.ca.gov website now displays data on California’s progress in vaccinating groups and communities with the most urgent need. Dashboards include statewide and county progress by the Vaccine Equity Metric (VEM), race and ethnicity or age. A map displays Zip-code-level data on vaccination progress within each VEM quartile. These dashboards are updated weekly, on Wednesdays.
‘Get Out the Vaccine’ Phone Bank and Door-Knocking Campaign – Modeled after successful ground-level campaigns, a new state “Get Out the Vaccine” effort coordinates with 70 community-based organizations to employ callers and door-knockers to help Californians make a plan to get vaccinated. The program is in partnership with Healthy Future California and the UCLA Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s STOP COVID CA initiative. About 2,000 individuals from targeted communities will be employed to make peer-to-peer appeals and provide support to help overcome barriers to vaccinations. The program, now underway, has already resulted in more than 4,900 appointments scheduled.
Partnering with Philanthropic Organizations to Enhance Support for Community Organizations – Trusted messengers play a vital role in supporting the state’s equitable administration of vaccines. California is expanding its public-private partnerships to support community-based organizations (CBOs), bringing the total amount of funding to $85.7 million and aiding a total of 480 organizations to date. The state is expanding its partnership with the Public Health Institute (PHI) Together Toward Health initiative, created and funded through 18 major philanthropic organizations led by The California Endowment to stop the spread of COVID-19 and strengthen health and resilience in the state’s most impacted communities. This fund now totals $33.4 million and supports more than 323 organizations. Additional CBOs will be awarded grants on a rolling basis in the months to come. The state is also partnering with The Center at Sierra Health Foundation on a new $29 million “Vaccine Equity Campaign” fund that will invest in CBOs and faith-based organizations across the state. This new funding builds on $23.3 million awarded by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and Labor & Workforce Development Agency (LWDA) to support 157 organizations on multilingual outreach and public health education in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. A subset of these organizations have helped facilitate approximately 111,000 vaccine appointments and 236,000 referrals to appointment platforms or providers. FAQs on the statewide network of community-based organizations can be found online.
Grants to Support Vaccination Equity – Building off the previously announced awards for Los Angeles County and Bay Area counties, the state is now making available an additional $34.2 million in funding for underserved and high-risk communities throughout California’s other counties. This funding will be directed by local health jurisdictions to support back-end operations and expand vaccine distribution to enhance targeted outreach in communities and Zip codes most impacted by COVID-19. Counties with a population over 1 million will receive $1.5 million for every 1 million people; those with populations between 500,000 and one million will be eligible for $650,000 in grant funding; and counties with populations under 500,000 will be eligible for $350,000 in funding to expand vaccination programs and achieve equity goals. In total, $56.8 million is now being provided to, or at the direction of, local health jurisdictions throughout all of California to support the state’s equity goals.
Localized Plans for Promoting Equity in Vaccination – Along with statewide strategies, leaders of each of California’s 61 local health jurisdictions working in partnership with the state’s third-party administrator, Blue Shield of California, created and submitted plans to the state to promote vaccination equity in their communities. This includes a wide range of approaches, from small mobile vaccine clinics located in remote areas; to engaging micro influencers to impact specific groups or populations; to partnering with schools and faith-based partners for outreach, education and selection of trusted clinic sites.
At-Home Vaccination program – Homebound residents can currently contact their health care providers for in-home vaccinations. These services are expanding statewide and individuals unable to leave their home to get vaccinated may also indicate as such via www.myturn.ca.gov or contact the state’s CA COVID-19 hotline at (833) 422-4255 to be connected with their local health jurisdiction to arrange for in-home vaccination services.
Free Transportation to Vaccine Appointments – Individuals who do not have a means of transportation can receive free transportation through www.myturn.ca.gov or by contacting the state’s COVID-19 hotline at (833) 422-4255. Transportation includes automobile transportation for ambulatory patients and non-emergency medical transportation for non-ambulatory patients including wheelchair vans, gurney transportation and other options. Medi-Cal managed care and fee-for-service beneficiaries will be connected with their health plan or service provider to access this service as an existing health benefit.