Hispanic Federation today launched a new and urgently needed initiative, COVID-19 VIDA (Vaccination Immunization Dosage Awareness), to help Latino-led community health centers across the U.S. get Latinos vaccinated against the coronavirus. With an initial allocation of one million dollars, the Federation announced the first 14 grants to organizations located in New York, Illinois, Texas, Arizona, California, Washington, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

Funding from the Federation’s COVID-19 VIDA initiative will be used by the community health centers (also known as nonprofit Federally Qualified Health Centers or FQHCs) to cover expenses related to maximizing the distribution of the vaccine, including education, outreach, staffing, and transportation costs for low-income clients. While the government is providing the actual vaccine, much of the cost to administer immunization programs has been left to these essential non-profits which lack resources to maximize their role in distributing the vaccine.

“Latino FQHCs are in desperate need of immediate help,” stated Frankie Miranda, President and CEO of the Hispanic Federation. “The funding inequities that exist and continue to disproportionately harm our community are unacceptable. The Hispanic Federation is therefore taking targeted action through our new COVID-19 VIDA initiative. We have allocated one million dollars and hope that with the support of other donors that sum will increase significantly over the following days and weeks. Selected nonprofit community health centers will receive much-needed support to carry out their vaccination programs for Latinos and others, regardless of their income, insurance status, residence, or any other factor.”

Latinos are three to four times as likely as other U.S. residents to become infected, be hospitalized, and die from COVID-19. Overrepresented among frontline workers, they risk exposure every day – yet may face numerous barriers to vaccination – among them a lack of health insurance, limited English proficiency, no internet access, a distrust of the healthcare system due to past mistreatment, and fear that obtaining medical assistance could be used to deny them citizenship or lead to arrest or deportation. Many Latinos also do not believe the vaccine is safe or effective. In recent surveys, as many as 40% of Latino adults have said they probably or definitely would not get vaccinated.

There are more than 60 million Latinos in the country, accounting for nearly 20% of the United States population. Achieving “herd immunity” and ending the pandemic in our nation can only be achieved if Latinos have prompt and equitable access to the vaccine. This requires trusted messengers to show them that the vaccine is safe and convenient locations for obtaining vaccinations. Community health centers hold the key to this effort.

Community health centers are valued, easily accessible providers of primary medical care to Latinos. These are the health care providers of choice for millions of Latinos, especially those who are low-income, uninsured, immigrant, and/or undocumented. Deeply rooted in Latino communities, governed and often staffed by people who speak their language and share their culture and concerns, community health centers offer the greatest hope for rapid, large-scale vaccination of Latinos, especially the most vulnerable. Many Latino-focused FQHCs will serve as vaccination sites for their patients and sometimes the broader community.

The first grantees have either begun or are about to begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations, beginning with the elderly and frontline workers who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus. The following FQHCs form part of the Federation’s initial VIDA funding cohort:

  • Alivio Medical Center – Chicago, Illinois: Alivio Medical Center was formed in 1989 to realize the vision of a community-based health center responsive and culturally sensitive to Chicago’s most underserved and vulnerable Mexican, Latino and immigrant communities with a focus on providing access to quality health care to the uninsured and underinsured. 
  • Boriken Neighborhood Health Center – New York, New York: For more than 45 years, Boriken Neighborhood Health Center has been providing the highest quality of comprehensive ambulatory care services to the residents of East Harlem and other underserved communities without regard to a patient’s immigration status or ability to pay.
  • Centro de Servicios Primarios de Salud – Patillas, Puerto Rico: For four decades, Centro de Servicios Primarios de Salud has provided medical care and hospital services to high-need and low-income families and communities in the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico who often lack any other health care option. 
  • Clinica Monseñor Oscar Romero – Los Angeles, California: Founded by Salvadoran refugees and their allies in 1983, Clinica Romero provides quality, affordable, and culturally sensitive health care and advocacy to residents of Los Angeles regardless of their ability to pay and based on the recognition and their founding principle that health care is a human right.
  • El Centro de Corazón – Houston, Texas: First operated out of a house in the community offering early childhood intervention and mental health services, El Centro is now at the heart of making the East End of Houston a healthy community, treating the whole person through prenatal, adult, and pediatric primary care, dental, and mental health services.
  • Humboldt Park Health – Chicago, Illinois: Rooted in the Humboldt Park community of Chicago, Humboldt Park Health Center provides the area’s largely Puerto Rican and Latino community with high-quality and compassionate health care services in general surgery, internal medicine, podiatry, neurology, behavioral health, obstetrics and ophthalmology.
  • La Clínica de la Raza – Oakland, California: For nearly 50 years, La Clínica de la Raza has worked to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate health care services to low-income and medically underserved communities in the East Bay. Today, it employs 35 service sites to serve Latino and other diverse communities in three different counties.
  • La Clínica del Pueblo – Washington, District of Colombia: Established by Salvadoran refugees almost four decades ago, La Clínica provides culturally-rooted health care in DC and suburban Maryland that is blended with social justice, immigration, and economic equality work and involves extensive health outreach and education.
  • Nuestra Clínica del Valle – Pharr, Texas: Nuestra Clínica del Valle began as a migrant program of a local health department and now serves primarily uninsured, medically indigent residents, migrant and seasonal farmworkers, and their families living in Hidalgo and Starr Counties in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.
  • Salud Integral en la Montaña – Naranjito, Puerto Rico: Founded in 1974, Salud Integral en La Montaña is a network of health centers that provides primary and preventive health services to low-income residents, many of which are farmers, in the Puerto Rican municipalities of Barranquitas, Comerio, Corozal, Orocovis and Toa Alta. 
  • Sea Mar Community Health Centers – Seattle, Washington: Founded in 1978, Sea Mar Community Health Centers provides comprehensive health services to diverse communities throughout Washington State, providing care through its 90 medical, dental and behavioral health clinics to all persons without regard to status or their ability to pay for services.
  • Urban Health Plan – New York, New York: Founded in 1967 by Dr. Richard Izquierdo, a local physician practicing in the South Bronx who was an icon for health equity, Urban Health Plan provides high-quality primary, specialty medical care, diagnostic, and support services through community-based centers in the South Bronx and Corona, Queens.
  • Valle del Sol – Phoenix, Arizona: Founded in 1970 to fill a gap in behavioral health and social services for the Latino community, an underserved and under-insured population, Valle del Sol continues today providing services that are culturally appropriate to its diverse and ever growing community in the area of healthcare, human services and behavioral health.
  • Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic – Yakima, Washington: Opened in 1973, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic is one of the largest community health centers in the Northwest serving migrant and seasonal farmworkers, and other low-income families, with high-quality comprehensive health and human services.    

These FQHCs face significant funding gaps in carrying out and expanding their vaccination programs. Federal support, as well as efforts from the philanthropic community, will be key to covering the real costs of vaccinations, from overcoming concerns about vaccine safety and effectiveness to providing the same access as other Americans. Because we cannot wait for public action, we are acting now.

The Federation invites other institutional and individual donors to join its COVID-19 VIDA initiative to help a greater number of Latino community-health centers carry out this life-saving work in vulnerable communities across the country. To help, please contact Ivy Fairchild at ifairchild@hispanicfederation.org.

This statement was originally posted at HispanicFederation.org.