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Wolf administration announces $5M grant program for local COVID-19 vaccine campaigns

Isabelle Schmeler
90.5 WESA

Community groups and educational and child care institutions working to vaccinate hesitant Pennsylvanians against COVID-19 could soon get financial help from the state.

The Departments of Health and Community and Economic Development announced a $5 million grant program Tuesday to help organizations with public health awareness campaigns.

“This grant program supports vaccine outreach by grassroots organizations that are trusted voices in vaccine-hesitant communities–which is key for educating all Pennsylvanians that vaccines are safe, effective, and the best way to protect against COVID-19,” Pennsylvania’s Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin said in a release.

The program will provide grants up to $100,000 to help with local media buys, creation of outreach and training materials and equipment rental to assist with setting vaccine appointments. Grants can also be used to support vaccine-related educational events or clinics.

Monica Ruiz, executive director of Casa San Jose, said the program could help her organization scale up the work it’s already doing with the Latino community in southwestern Pennsylvania.

“It would enable us to get the information about COVID and the vaccine out to harder to reach areas and tailor the message to communities that we’re focusing on targeting,” she said.

Some of those messages are best delivered in another language. Ruiz said it’s also important that informational material reflects the community it’s intended for.

“Having images that reflect them with priorities and values that are prominent in our community,” is key, she said.

Effective messaging could play a big role in reaching communities with lower vaccine acceptance rates.

According to state health officials, 68 percent of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated as of Tuesday. But disparities in vaccination still persist in Black, Latino and LGBTQ communities as well as among those experiencing homelessness or without consistent access to internet.

“Millions of Pennsylvanians have stepped up and received their COVID-19 vaccine, which is great progress, but to beat this pandemic and strengthen our economic resiliency, we need to make sure as many people as possible are vaccinated,” said Secretary Davin.

Eligible groups can submit applications through November 1. Application instructions and program guidelines can be found here.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.