ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) — Nine community-based organizations in Anne Arundel County will receive grants totaling more than $700,000 for helping to ensure equitable access to the Covid-19 vaccines.

The awards are funded through the COVID Mass Vaccination CARES Initiative of the Maryland Department of Health, Prevention and Health Promotion Administration. The county appreciates the assistance in reaching residents, County Executive Steuart Pittman said in a statement.

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“The communities in our county with the lowest vaccination rates are the ones that have been most impacted by COVID-19,” he said. “The organizations receiving these grants will canvass neighborhoods, talk to residents directly, and fill our vaccination appointments. That’s how our communities will recover from this pandemic.”

The grant recipients are:

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  • Anne Arundel County Community Action Agency – $58,000 for reaching out to south county community services, including food banks, baby banks, libraries, grocery stores and events, to educate community members about the safety and importance of COVID-19 vaccinations;
  • CASA de Maryland, Inc. (Anne Arundel County Chapter) – $98,000 for hiring and training students to serve as part-time health ambassadors. Funds will also help expand existing and ongoing Hispanic/Latino community engagement work, with a focus on Annapolis, Brooklyn Park, Glen Burnie, Laurel and surrounding ZIP codes;
  • Center of Help – $90,000 for supporting case navigators to reach and educate the Black and Hispanic/Latino communities and provide equitable vaccination services. Health ambassadors will attend weekly food distributions, programs at the Center of Help and its partner organizations, and community events;
  • ElevateHER – $90,000 for providing health workers at a grassroots neighborhood level.  Activities will include canvassing on foot as well as engagement at pop-up micro-center sites, community centers, businesses, and houses of faith. The health ambassadors will offer vaccine registration and support for keeping vaccination appointments;
  • Growth Matters LLC – $93,000 for supporting vaccine education and resources for Anne Arundel County residents through door-to-door engagement. Growth Matters will collaborate with Hands of Hope, Inc. and over 30 faith-based organizations through the Whose House God’s House Initiative, which has churches as advocates for community vaccinations;
  • Heritage Community Church – $32,575 for targeting the Hispanic/Latino population in the Severn area and will be used to host the Hispanic Health Festival, provide educational vaccine materials and serve as a host site for vaccinations;
  • Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis – $50,000 for providing vaccine information at home visits in HACA’s residential communities. HACA houses over 1,100 families and will provide educational materials, vaccination registrations, and pop-up events for its residents;
  • Kingdom Kare Inc. – $98,000 for canvassing communities in the western and northern parts of the county and participate in food distributions to distribute print materials. Kingdom Kare will engage with residents utilizing culturally competent and tailored materials. Kingdom Kare will partner with the United Black Clergy of Anne Arundel County which consists of over 52 clergy leaders;
  • Maryland Reentry Resource Center – $98,000 for reducing an existing language barrier by providing vaccine education and registration assistance. The Maryland Reentry Resource Center will collaborate with My Life Foundation to provide outreach to the Asian population. My Life Foundation has provided direct services to over 1,500 Asian American residents in central Maryland, most of whom reside in Anne Arundel County.

“In our county, equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine is a high priority,” Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, Anne Arundel County health officer, said in a statement. “Our data shows that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on Black, Hispanic, low income and older individuals.”

County data shows that Black residents are 1.4 times more likely and Hispanic residents are 2.4 times more likely to get COVID-19 than white residents. People age 65 and older of all races and ethnicities accounted for more than 85% of all COVID-19 deaths but only 12% of all cases. In addition, vaccination rates are lower in communities where the average income is below the poverty line.

To address these inequities, the nine award recipients will work to increase the vaccination rates among Black residents, Hispanic residents, low-income neighborhoods and older residents. The organizations now will be able to hire health ambassadors to canvass communities and distribute culturally competent informational materials about the COVID-19 disease and vaccine. The ambassadors will target census tracts that have the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates.

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For more information about the Health Ambassadors Program, call 410-222-4224 or email healthambassadorproject@aacounty.org. For more information on vaccinations, or to register for an appointment, visit https://www.aacounty.org/covidvax/.

CBS Baltimore Staff