NEWARK, NJ — Newark nonprofit leaders and area health professionals are teaming up to increase accessibility to the COVID-19 vaccine in underserved communities through a substantial amount of grant monies awarded by United Way of Greater Newark and Greater Newark Health Care Coalition.
More than $500,000 were awarded by the organizations to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Project Ready, Bessie Mae Women’s Health Center, and North Jersey Aids Alliance to fund COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Newark and underserved communities in multiple neighboring towns. These towns include Irvington, East Orange and Orange.
The funding, officials said, will help launch neighborhood-based mobile vaccination clinics as well as grassroots community outreach and public information campaigns.
“Through our ongoing work to increase access and equity in vaccine distribution in under-resourced communities, we know that the most effective strategies are collaborative and community-led,” said United Way of Greater Newark President and CEO Catherine Wilson. “This is why we’ve partnered with the Greater Newark Health Care Coalition to award grants and provide support to these local organizations and institutions that have experience working in these communities… With the rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, neighborhoods with low vaccination rates are at significant risk.”
The initiative will be funded by the state Department of Human Services with the intent of equitably distributing the vaccine in these areas. Despite New Jersey ranking among the most vaccinated states in the nation, there are still many underserved communities in municipalities like Newark that are lagging behind.
To date, roughly 50% of all Newark residents eligible to receive a vaccine have been fully inoculated, according to the NJ COVID-19 Dashboard. Although this number represents a sizable jump since April when a mere 17% of Newark residents 18 and older were fully vaccinated, the city still has a long way to go to get more shots in arms.
Newark already accounts for nearly 37% of the 2,809 total COVID-related deaths tallied in Essex County. Nearly 40,000 positive cases have been reported in Newark as well.
In order to combat the issue on a government level, local officials and health professionals stepped up efforts to increase inoculations and make the vaccine as accessible as possible. This included the implementation of various initiatives such as launching mobile pop-up clinics around the city and retrofitting public buildings and houses of worship to hold vaccination clinics.
On a community level, United Way has been at the forefront to ensure more underserved residents in Newark get access to a vaccine if they want one.
In March, the nonprofit joined city officials and community leaders to launch an equitable vaccine initiative. The effort was part of a national pilot program spearheaded by The Rockefeller Foundation’s model for increasing vaccine equity and access for Black and brown Americans. United Way received a $1 million grant from the foundation to establish a distribution project for the community.
Now, United Way and its partners want to build upon this effort with a new influx of grant monies.
“Joining forces with the community remains critical to defeating COVID-19,” said Keri Logosso-Misurell, executive director of Greater Newark Health Care Coalition. “Accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine must be readily available and delivered by trusted messengers and the vaccine must be easily accessible. Greater Newark Health Care Coalition is partnering with United Way of Greater Newark to increase outreach and education efforts and to fund vaccine sites in the communities that need them most. Catherine has been an essential leader of vaccine equity initiatives in the greater Newark area — she has built strong organizational infrastructure and has a large network of trusted partners. GNHCC is grateful for the opportunity to work with her and UWGN to achieve improved health outcomes collectively.”