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United Way’s vaccine equity project aims to aid underserved populations

Vaccination Equity Project
Oliver Forster / NC3
The United Way of Santa Barbara County has created the vaccination equity project, aimed to assist underserved populations with receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. — Nearly half of Santa Barbara County residents over the age of 16 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

However, there are troubling trends when it comes to underserved populations.

Although latino individuals make up 48% of the county’s population, they only account for 18% of those that have received vaccinations.   

To help out, the United Way of Santa Barbara County has put a new program in place.

It’s called the vaccination equity project, aimed to educate isolated individuals and help them get vaccinated. 

“Not only are they learning about it but we’re also helping people who have lack of transportation access get there,” SBC United Way CEO Steve Ortiz said. “Also following-up after the fact to make sure it happened."

Recently, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics has experienced a slight slow down in the amount Spanish speakers being delivered doses of vaccines.

“It’s very important that we let people know that we are not checking social security numbers or for their citizenship,” Santa Barbara Neighbor Clinics CEO Dr. Charles Fenzi said.“This is for any resident in Santa Barbara County." 

“There is a lot of fear and negative perception of the vaccine,” Ortiz added. “We're trying to educate our community about the need to get vaccinated."

The vaccination equity project will distribute over $337,000 to 13 local nonprofits.

One of these organizations is the Carpinteria Children's Project.

“Our organization will use these funds to provide a targeted outreach effort to unprivileged populations,” interim executive director Teresa Alvarez said. “This includes the latino, farmworker and unhoused “population

While some issues arise from perception, a lot more have to do with access.

For this reason, the United Way is also connecting people with transportation services.

“If we want to reopen safely, it's important for all populations and all demographics to get this vaccine,” Ortiz concluded.

Some of the nonprofit organizations supported by the project are also helping the homeless get vaccinated. 

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Blake DeVine

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