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As COVID-19 vaccine demand dips, community health centers take the lead

Christine Vestal, on

Published in News & Features

When Biden offered to ship vaccines directly to community health centers, state health departments did not object, she said. “It didn’t interfere with their authority. It just meant their state would receive more vaccines.”

Earlier in the pandemic, some states provided extra funding, personal protective equipment and other supplies to community health centers to cover the extraordinary cost of battling COVID-19 while shuttering most other medical services that generated income, the national association’s Yee said.

In February, Neighborhood Health was among 250 health centers that the Biden administration chose to participate in its vaccine equity program, which prioritizes underserved communities and populations that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

In March, 700 additional health centers were asked to join the program.

On April 6, Biden visited one of Neighborhood Health’s COVID-19 vaccine clinics at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia.

Khan said the vaccination sites his health center has set up with community organizations have all been successful and are still going strong, at roughly 5,000 vaccinations per week.

But Khan said he anticipates demand will start dipping by late May, and as the community gets closer to normal life, some of the facilities will open for normal business and won’t be available as vaccination clinics.


At that point, Khan said, Neighborhood Health plans to start administering most COVID-19 vaccines at its 13 medical clinics. Since it began offering vaccines in December, the center has administered only small numbers of shots at its own clinics, because the waiting rooms are not big enough for large groups to wait for 15 minutes after receiving a shot to check for side effects, he explained.

Khan said churches and temples have been among the most rewarding collaborators. Alfred Street Baptist Church, for example, “has been an amazing partner.”

If you ask Lolita Youmans, the church’s administrator, the feeling is mutual.

Founded in 1803, Alfred Street’s largely Black congregation numbers more than 10,000 people, about half of whom live in the local area. The rest remotely attend Sunday services from around the world.

“You can imagine that our church is approached by many people who want to partner with us for many reasons,” said Youmans, a member since 2006. “In my day, there have been some disasters and some that have worked pretty well. But the partnership with Neighborhood Health is by far the most productive and rewarding that I have ever seen.

“I’m optimistic that we can continue our relationship serving underserved people beyond the pandemic, whether it’s food or health care or access to education, jobs or housing.”

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