North Carolina’s work to reach underserved and historically marginalized populations and deliver equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is a model approach for the country, according to a new report released this week by the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA).
The report, Prioritizing Equity in COVID-19 Vaccinations: Promising Practices from States to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities, highlights promising actions states can take to promote equitable vaccination within historically marginalized communities, reduce systemic barriers to vaccine access, and improve race and ethnicity data to inform vaccine distribution.
North Carolina’s approach to vaccines has been "fast and fair" with equity built into every aspect of vaccine distribution.
"Our commitment to equitable vaccine distribution is one piece of our continued work to address and dismantle systemic and structural barriers to health equity," said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. "By embedding equity into all aspects of our COVID-19 response and maximizing the speed and efficiency of vaccine distribution, we've consistently been a national leader in equitably getting shots into arms."
North Carolina's vaccine equity work is featured in several sections of the Prioritizing Equity report, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In particular, North Carolina is showcased for:
- Increasing vaccine supply allotments for counties with larger populations from historically marginalized communities, particularly when the state was focused on vaccinating people 65 and older.
- Prioritizing community-based vaccination approaches such as funding community health workers and enabling community-based organizations to host mass vaccine events, which builds trust in vaccines and increases access to them within historically marginalized communities.
- Removing systematic barriers to vaccine access, such as transportation. North Carolina allocated $2.5 million to local transit authorities to offset public transportation costs for North Carolinians to get to and from their vaccine appointments.
North Carolina has been nationally recognized for its vaccine efforts prior to the Duke-Margolis Center and NGA report. The CDC ranked the state in the top 10 for equitable vaccine coverage, and Bloomberg News reported on North Carolina's data-driven approach to reducing disparities in vaccination rates.
Last month, Governor Roy Cooper and NCDHHS continued vaccine and health equity efforts by launching Healthier Together with the NC Counts Coalition. This new public private partnership will increase the number of individuals from historically marginalized populations who receive COVID-19 vaccinations and will provide a foundation for a longer-term framework for health equity.
Initially, Healthier Together will do this by focusing on outreach and education efforts, coordinating local vaccine events at trusted and accessible locations, helping people schedule and get to vaccine appointments, providing on-site translation services and helping ensure people get to second dose appointments. For more information on promoting COVID-19 vaccine equity in North Carolina, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov.