BALTIMORE, Md. — As President Joe Biden met on Tuesday with governors to announce new vaccination efforts, a federal agency unveiled funding to boost outreach for vaccine research in Maryland’s communities of color.
The National Institutes of Health Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL), awarded $15 million to Johns Hopkins University to research barriers to getting vaccinated in underserved communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Dr. Cheryl Himmelfarb, vice dean of research in the School of Nursing at Johns Hopkins University, said the money will partly go to interviewing people to help her group address myths surrounding vaccination, and then inform regional health departments about issues.
“Partnering with both the community and the clinic, or the Baltimore City Health Department, we can get that information to them so that they know where they should be delivering vaccinations to be most effective,” Himmelfarb explained.
Biden announced Americans can get free rides to get vaccinated through Uber and Lyft services until July 4. He also noted his administration is partnering to start on-site vaccination clinics at community colleges across the nation to inoculate a younger, diverse group in need.
The CEAL program partners locally with community groups, faith-based organizations, universities and health clinics to find out common misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccinations.
Dr. Gary Gibbons, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, said the Johns Hopkins group aims to tackle vaccine apprehension among younger adults and teenagers in minority communities.
“That’s particularly timely because the FDA has just recently indicated its inclination to approve vaccines as safe and effective down to the age of 12,” Gibbons pointed out. “So it’s really important that we get the message out in a way that resonates with that youthful audience.”
As of May 3, 24% of all vaccinations in Maryland went to African Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but they accounted for 36% of deaths from the coronavirus and make up 30% of the state’s total population.