The Biden-Harris Administration has awarded $98 million in grants to more than 1,980 eligible Rural Health Clinic Vaccination Confidence Program applicants.
That includes $3,367,972 allocated to rural health clinics in Iowa to support vaccination efforts as many communities face increased challenges caused by the Delta variant, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The funds will go to 68 rural health clinics to use to combat COVID-19 misinformation by developing and implementing additional vaccine confidence and outreach efforts.
The funding was made available by the American Rescue Plan and is being administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration through the Rural Health Clinic Vaccine Confidence Program.
“Rural health clinics play a crucial role in supporting our national vaccination effort to defeat COVID-19,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in the press release. “This funding will give trusted messengers in rural communities the tools they need to counsel patients on how COVID-19 vaccines can help protect them and their loved ones.”
The clinics are well positioned to disseminate information about how and where to get vaccinated at the local level and coordinate with existing vaccination sites and public health partners to identify strategies to increase vaccine confidence among key populations, the press release stated.
RHCs will also use this funding to improve health literacy, focusing on vaccine safety and the benefits of broad vaccination for rural communities. These efforts will improve healthcare in rural areas by reinforcing key messages about prevention and treatment of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
Grant amounts are based on the number of certified clinic sites a Rural Health Clinic operates. HRSA will provide about $49,500 for each clinic site.
RHCs are a special designation given to healthcare practices in underserved rural areas by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help ensure access to care for rural residents.
“Rural Health Clinics are critical partners in addressing health equity gaps, including those related to vaccination,” said HRSA Acting Administrator Diana Espinosa. “This funding will help Rural Health Clinics address the barriers people in their communities face to getting vaccinated and build confidence in vaccines through trusted resources for healthcare services and health information.”
HRSA also awarded a $750,000 cooperative agreement to the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health to provide technical assistance to the RHCs participating in the program. The organization will work closely with the National Association of Rural Health Clinics, the technical assistance provider for the RHC COVID-19 Testing and Mitigation program. Collaboration between HRSA and these organizations ensures RHCs will receive coordinated technical assistance to support their COVID-19 response and improve health care in rural communities.