Charlie Baker boosts funding by $3.2 million for vaccination efforts in hard-hit Massachusetts communities

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is boosting funding by $3.2 million to community- and faith-based organizations in the areas hardest hit by COVID-19, which state data show are still suffering from lagging vaccination rates.

“As we work to build trust in the vaccine across the Commonwealth, we also put our full trust in community-based organizations to know what their communities need, and how to best serve them,” Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel said. “Our goal has always been to work toward equity by finding solutions that are right for each community.”

The Herald reported last week that vaccination efforts are trailing in the 20 cities and towns that suffered disproportionately from COVID-19 cases even as the state is poised to reach herd immunity by mid-month. The communities are also home to large populations of low-income, immigrant and minority families.

While vaccination rates for people who have received at least one shot in affluent communities like Hopkinton, Lexington, Cohasset and Needham are upward of 80%, fewer than half of all Springfield, Lawrence, Holyoke, Fitchburg, Fall River and Brockton residents had received their first coronavirus shot as of Thursday.

As of Tuesday, 3.87 million people were vaccinated — about 60% of the state’s total population. Most experts place herd immunity — the point at which enough people are immune so that the spread begins to halt — around 70%.

Dr. Atiya Martin of Vaccine Equity Now! Coalition earlier this week told the Herald the state “must” empower trusted community and faith organizations to educate and vaccinate places where hesitancy endures.

“We need more resources to organizations on the ground, grassroots organizations that have been doing work in these communities all year long,” Martin said. “They need the resources because they are the ones who community members trust. They are the ones who have been giving them gift cards, testing them and now vaccinating them.”

Thirty new community organizations targeting groups where hesitation is higher will receive funding through Tuesday’s award that the Baker administration in a press release said aims “to reduce barriers to vaccination for communities and populations most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

The funding builds on $30 million into outreach efforts like door-to-door canvassing, flyer drops and community-based vaccination clinics the state’s COVID-19 command center has said are intended “to address vaccine equity and access for the commonwealth’s most disproportionately impacted communities.”

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