As Washington expands its COVID-19 vaccination rollout, many communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic are experiencing substantial barriers accessing the vaccine. To address this disparity, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation is partnering with Harborview Medical Center/UW Medicine to deliver COVID-19 vaccines directly to underserved communities in King County. The initiative is supported by the foundation and other partners in the region, including the Seattle Mariners, Cambia Health Foundation, Starbucks and foundry10.
“As vaccination availability turns the tide in this pandemic, the foundation continues its commitment to improving and expanding equitable access to COVID-19 resources,” said Lara Littlefield, director of science and technology partnerships, on behalf of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “These targeted funds will support vaccine delivery to underserved communities across our region and help close the vaccine equity gap that leaves some of our communities more vulnerable.”
COVID-19 has severely affected some communities more than others. King County data shows that despite Black and Hispanic residents experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 infection, they are receiving the vaccine at slower rates than the county overall. Even more stark, a small proportion of those experiencing homelessness have been vaccinated, despite facing higher risk of hospitalization and serious illness once infected. Bringing vaccine education and access directly to King County’s most impacted communities will be critical to reducing hospitalizations, lowering infection rates, and bringing about an end to the pandemic.
The Foundation’s grant of $1 million will directly target vaccinations for residents who are Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and those experiencing homelessness. At full operation, UW Medicine’s efforts will deliver up to 14,500 vaccines per month to the region’s most vulnerable communities and geographic locations.
The initiative will use mobile vaccination teams staffed and operated by Harborview Medical Center, popup vaccine clinics, and the Harborview COVID-19 vaccination clinic to reach residents across King County. In addition to vaccine delivery, the funds will also allow UW Medicine to partner with community organizations and leaders to disseminate accurate vaccine information and build trust in the vaccination efforts themselves. Given historical lack of access to quality health care, BIPOC communities need reliable information from trusted community leaders.
“Our ability to end this pandemic quickly and save lives depends on improving access to the vaccine and providing vaccine information to those communities most burdened by COVID-19,” said Dr. Lisa Chew, associate medical director of ambulatory services at Harborview Medical Center and an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We are so thankful for the quick action of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and other key supporters whose generosity and partnership will help us vaccinate thousands of people in King County.”
This grant continues the commitment of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, UW Medicine, and Harborview Medical Center to support those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19 throughout the pandemic. The foundation’s early $2 million grant to UW Medicine’s Emergency Response Fund launched UW Medicine’s mobile testing program in underserved communities, which has conducted more than 10,000 COVID-19 tests since April 2020 and whose infrastructure is making this vaccination program possible. This funding round also builds on the foundation’s previous COVID-19 support to multiple organizations in the Pacific Northwest, totaling $12 million.