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Florida gets nearly $200 million to bolster vaccination effort

The federal funding aims to increase vaccination rates, with a focus on underserved residents.
Nurse Annette Shelton administers the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine last month to Bernice Wyche at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg.
Nurse Annette Shelton administers the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine last month to Bernice Wyche at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg. [ BOYZELL HOSEY | Times ]
Published Apr. 6
Updated Apr. 6

With millions in new funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida will expand its local efforts to vaccinate residents, particularly those disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, the agency announced Tuesday.

“We are doing everything we can to expand access to vaccinations,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director. “Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic.”

Throughout the crisis, communities of color — particularly Black Floridians — have been disproportionately burdened by COVID-19 infection and hospitalizations rates. And as vaccines become more widely available, Black residents statewide remain underrepresented among those receiving shots.

While state partnerships with community-based organizations, like churches and historically Black colleges and universities, have pumped some resources into minority communities, the new funding may bolster current efforts by local health departments.

The $194 million Florida award aims to support equity in vaccine access as part of a broader $3 billion CDC fund, which has allocated money to more than 60 jurisdictions in an effort to boost distribution of and access to COVID-19 vaccines as well as support administrative tasks.

More than 70 percent of the funding must go towards increasing vaccine access and education within communities of color, which could include door-knocking efforts to help residents sign up for vaccination appointments or bilingual awareness campaigns. In addition, 60 percent of funds must be allocated to support local health departments as well as community-based organizations and health centers.

Representatives for the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas and Pasco counties said they are not aware of any funding coming directly to them, according to emails from both departments. Their health department peers from Hillsborough and Hernando counties could not immediately be reached for comment.

Funding for the effort comes from the American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg provides partial funding for Times stories on equity. It does not select story topics and is not involved in the reporting or editing.