WASHINGTON - The White House announced Thursday that it will direct $10 billion, largely drawn from the recently enacted American Rescue Plan, to expand vaccination access for low-income, rural and minority communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
Much of the money, $6 billion, will go out next month to 1,400 federally funded community health centers that serve patients at high risk of infection and death from the coronavirus.
The funds can be used to increase vaccinations, testing and treatment for those patients, as well as improve overall preventive care, by improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units, according to the White House.
An additional $3 billion, half of which comes from the Covid-19 relief package, will go to education and outreach programs by local health departments and community-based organizations to increase vaccination access and acceptance in high-risk communities, the White House said. The money will go directly to states and large cities to distribute.
The administration has been racing to pick up the pace of vaccinations as new variants of the virus emerge and as the numbers of new cases have appeared to tick up slightly in recent days.
The U.S. has been giving around 2.5 million shots a day, and President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new goal for the pace of vaccinations during the first news conference of his presidency later Thursday.
His administration has already reached its initial goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days, a little over a month ahead of his self-imposed deadline. While Biden has said there will be enough vaccine supply for every American by the end of May, he hasn't indicated how long he expects it will take to get those shots into arms.
The funding efforts continue the Biden administration's focus on increasing vaccinations among groups hardest hit by the coronavirus, including Black people and Latinos, who have been twice as likely to die from Covid-19 compared to white people.
According to the White House, people of color have received 60 percent of doses administered at federally run vaccination sites, and 65 percent of the doses allocated to community health centers have gone to people of color. Still, Black people and Latinos nationwide have received smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of the population, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
As part of the $6 billion for community health centers, the administration is asking that doses be made available to all front-line essential workers and anyone over age 16 with high-risk medical conditions, which would include 83 percent of adults the centers serve.
The administration is targeting the $3 billion for vaccine outreach at a variety of groups, including faith-based organizations, food and housing assistance nonprofits and bilingual community health organizations, to address issues from transportation needs to door-to-door education and appointment scheduling.
It will also direct $300 million for community health worker services to address disparities in access to other coronavirus-related services, like testing and contact tracing, as well as broader health issues that increase the risk of complications from Covid-19, such as chronic diseases, pregnancy and food insecurity.
Separately, the administration plans to direct $100 million from the American Rescue Plan to bolster the Medical Reserve Corps - the biggest investment ever in an all-volunteer army of doctors, nurses and medical support teams that are seen as being key to accelerating Covid-19 vaccinations, two administration officials said.