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What We’re Learning From Hyper-Local Approaches From Community-Based Organizations

In Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Newark, and Oakland, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Equity-First Vaccination Initiative (EVI) supports community-based organizations working to increase vaccine confidence and uptake in communities of color. In this blog post, we share their insights and most effective practices. Subscribe to learn more about EVI and sign up for future newsletter editions here.

Since the first vaccines were delivered in the U.S., success has largely been measured with a single metric: the number of Americans vaccinated. It’s a shortsighted focus, however, that overlooks the complex drivers and barriers to vaccination and as a result, neglects many important broader successes that result from vaccination efforts.

For example, campaigns that use localized, culturally competent, and engaging communications about how vaccines work are shown to improve health literacy overall. In-person conversations with folks who are skeptical about the vaccine often begin to rebuild trust in local healthcare providers. Helping people understand the manipulative tactics of misinformation campaigns builds resilience against Covid-19 and other types of misinformation.

EVI partners aren’t limiting success to the number of people who have gotten vaccinated; they are taking a more comprehensive look at the impact of community-led efforts. Success includes:

  • Connecting residents to critical health-promoting resources such as food supplies and housing assistance.
  • Recognizing that access to healthcare is a civic engagement concern, and that efforts to get out the vote and efforts to get people vaccinated should be connected.
  • Inviting in and creating space for systemically excluded and institutionally oppressed voices — refugees, sex workers, members of our LGBTQI community, persons experiencing homelessness, pregnant persons, returning residents, the differently-abled, disabled and persons with intersectional realities.
  • Recognizing the emergence of unique partnerships among CBOs and the build-out of a social fabric and safety-net. In the words of Catherine Wilson, president and CEO of EVI anchor partner United Way of Greater Newark: “The biggest success for us has been creating this model of partnering with an anchor in each ward and creating a community of practice around vaccination and marketing — because it will serve as a model moving forward about how we will do business in the city.”
  • By multiplying the benefits of each vaccine interaction, CBOs are addressing barriers to vaccination alongside barriers to better health overall, improving the wellness of communities beyond the current crisis.

Learn more about how community- driven efforts have been critical to vaccinating hard-to-reach and hard-to-convince Americans in the recent report from the RAND Corporation.