Getty Images/iStockphoto

HHS & ACL Slot $125M to Address Flu, COVID-19 Vaccine Access Barriers

The funding will focus on leveraging partnerships across the aging and disability networks to overcome flu and COVID-19 vaccine access barriers for older adults and people with disabilities.

The Administration for Community Living (ACL), an agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has released $125 million in funding to address flu and COVID-19 vaccine access barriers impacting vulnerable populations such as older patients and people with disabilities.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, disabled people and senior patients faced significant disparities stretching from an increased risk for COVID-19 mortality to simply lacking access to COVID-19 treatment and testing, ACL stated.

Seniors and persons with disabilities are at increased risk for COVID-19–related illness and death.

However, individuals with disabilities said they experienced both barriers to vaccine appointment scheduling and actual accessibility to vaccination sites, an October 2021 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) revealed.

Although CDC data shows that 92 percent of patients over 65 have received at least one dose of the original COVID-19 vaccine series, there is decreasing interest in keeping vaccinations current.

According to information from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent of seniors have received the first recommended booster, but only 45 percent have received the second.

These programs intend to distribute funding and leverage partnerships across aging and disability networks, offering community vaccine clinics, in-home vaccinations, transportation to vaccination sites, outreach, and education to older adults and disabled people, the press release stated.

Specifically, USAging was granted $75 million to create and build upon partnerships with centers for independent living, area agencies on aging, and other community-based organizations for older adults and patients with disabilities.

Additionally, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) was provided with $50 million to also focus on partnerships with organizations, including faith-based organizations, that can tailor messaging to these underserved groups.

Partnerships are a central element of each grant, ACL stated. USAging and NCOA leverage their long history of collaboration to reach disabled people and older adults, provide patient education to ensure these groups have the information they need to make informed decisions, and offer supportive services to overcome vaccination barriers.

“Staying up-to-date on vaccinations is the most important thing we all can do to protect ourselves from serious illness due to COVID-19 and flu as we head into winter, and it’s particularly crucial for older adults and people with disabilities, who face the greatest risks,” Alison Barkoff, ACL acting administrator and assistant secretary for aging, said in a press release. “These grants reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s ongoing commitment to supporting communities in providing vaccinations, testing, and treatment and are an important part of the Administration’s COVID-19 Winter Preparedness Plan.”

Next Steps

Dig Deeper on Patient data access

xtelligent Health IT and EHR