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Community Health Centers Played Critical Role in COVID-19 Response

Community health centers have health equity by administering over 2 in 3 COVID-19 vaccine shots to people of color.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, community health centers have been on the frontlines delivering equitable care to historically underserved populations.

An announcement from the National Association of Community Health Center (NACHC) released on the one-year anniversary of the Community Health Center COVID-19 Vaccination Program highlighted the success community health centers have achieved during the pandemic.

Health centers have administered 19.2 million COVID-19 vaccinations, with over 60 percent of the shots administered to racial-ethnic minorities. In addition, community health centers have administered 17 million tests with 2 in 3 tests performed on people of color.

In the year the Community Health Center Vaccination Program has been in effect, health centers have served 14.5 million people living in poverty, 2.9 million people 65 and older, 19 million people who identify as minorities, and 1.5 million people facing housing insecurity

"We're proud that health centers have met the challenge of the COVID-19 public health emergency," Ron Yee, MD, chief medical officer at NACHC, said in the announcement.

"They have saved lives and provided a trusted and safe place for families to get vaccinated and learn the facts. Health centers have been out in force, knocking on doors and administering the vaccines in farm fields, in mobile units, laundromats, schools, beyond the walls of the centers themselves, in the places where people congregate, live, and work. This unprecedented effort demonstrates that a localized approach is effective against a global public health crisis."

Overall, areas with community health centers experience fewer COVID-19 deaths and infections, a joint analysis from NACHC and the Morehouse School of Medicine's National COVID-19 Resiliency Network (NCRN) uncovered.

Researchers found that areas with a health center had 200 fewer cases of infection and nine fewer deaths per 100,000 people compared to regions of the country where a health center is not located.

“The findings are a testament to the health center boots on the ground effort, bringing the shots to where the people are with mobile vaccination sites, testing and building vaccine confidence through culturally and linguistically tailored efforts to combat disinformation,” NACHC wrote in the press release.

Community health centers have recently increased access to COVID-19 home tests for low-income people and communities of color.

A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that 27 percent of community health centers have delivered more than one million COVID-19 home testing kits.

Roughly one-third of community health centers reported distributing COVID-19 home testing kits through outreach to underserved populations such as the housing insecure, migrant farmworkers, or low-income people.

“Health centers are growing their role in the nation’s pandemic response efforts (in addition to state and local efforts) and have been important players in coordinating response efforts quickly and more equitably,” the KFF researchers stated.

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