In 2021, the Rx Foundation made rapid response COVID-19 Vaccine Equity grants to 14 community-based organizations in nine states. These grants supported the work of community organizers, community health workers, faith-based coalitions, a federal qualified health care center, and nonprofits serving people of color, immigrant communities, and people experiencing homelessness, with an overall goal of reducing barriers to vaccines and meeting the needs of communities who were not being served through existing COVID vaccine efforts.
Low-hassle, high impact grants
Existing Rx Foundation grant partners recommended organizations in their communities for rapid response Vaccine Equity grants, and in lieu of written proposals the Rx Foundation staff engaged in conversations with organization leaders. We carried that approach through to a conversation-based reporting process that eliminated written reports, and hosted a convening for Vaccine Equity partners to learn from each other and to strategize about ongoing challenges in early 2022.
Very few of the efforts of grant partners were “vaccine only,” and in many cases organizations integrated their vaccine outreach with efforts to meet other urgent community needs. This included other prevention efforts (masks and testing), building partnerships with food pantries, distributing Narcan or diapers, and making COVID a community safety issue.
Learning from this experience so far, several things are clear: (1) We can’t only address people’s COVID prevention needs when communities are facing greater economic, housing, food security, and overall health challenges. (2) The Rx Vaccine Equity partners are effective, trusted messengers in their communities, and understand the local context and needs. (3) In many cases, Rx Foundation grants were the only funding that supported their COVID-related efforts. (4) Structural inequities too often keep Black-led, immigrant-led, and community-led organizations away from the tables where decisions are made and funding is decided.
Lessons from Vaccine Plus Partners: Eastern Union Missionary Baptist Association
Purpose and Funding
Building on the initial rapid response grant program, and acknowledging the profound health and social challenges faced as we entered the third year of the coronavirus pandemic, the Rx Foundation launched a new Vaccine Plus initiative to support the expanded efforts of our existing Vaccine Equity partner organizations. Organizations were invited to engage in a brief application process for additional $25,000 grants in 2022.
The purpose of these grants are to provide unrestricted resources that will support community-based and community-led efforts to build and sustain the health and resiliency of residents. This included:
- Ongoing COVID-19 prevention and vaccination campaigns;
- Health literacy and health promotion efforts (e.g.,: promoting and/or providing screenings for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer – screenings that many people missed during the pandemic; testing for STDs, and distributing Narcan);
- Mental health efforts and resources;
- Integrating or co-locating COVID or non-COVID health efforts with the provision of other essential needs, social and economic resources, and support
- Community organizing to build power for the structural change needed to bring attention and resources to community priorities.