Kiara Mayhand is the first public health fellow at the Baltimore Community Foundation. The organization opened applications for its COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Fund, a grant program for community organizations with proposals to increase vaccine coverage among Black and LatinX individuals living in Baltimore. (Courtesy Photo)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer,
Report for America Corps Member,

The Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF) has opened applications for the COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Fund, a $900,000 grant program for Baltimore community organizations that have programs and projects seeking to boost vaccination specifically among Black and LatinX adults aged 18 to 24 in Baltimore City and County. 

Applications are being accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis, and BCF will review grant proposals of any dollar amount, as long as they are properly justified. 

“Because community-based organization work with communities and they have a certain level of trust that far exceeds anything that a medical institution would have and because they understand the historical background and ongoing level of structural racism, they have the power to encourage communities to get vaccinated,” said Kiara Mayhand, public health fellow at BCF. “They to shed some light on the importance of getting vaccinated just so that we can keep everyone safe and healthy.” 

The fund is made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has partnered with institutions at every level to improve vaccine confidence and adoption among racial groups that have hesitations.

One of the institutions that the CDC partnered with is Michigan State University (MSU), which has in turn created the National Network to Innovate for COVID-19 and Adult Vaccine Equity, or the NNICE project. 

The goal of the project is to form an evidence base for effective interventions that increase vaccination rates and to identify and implement strategies to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in adult COVID-19 vaccination coverage in five U.S. regions, including Baltimore. 

BCF partnered with MSU to execute the NNICE project. 

To be eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Fund, community organizations must propose programs and projects that include at least three multi-level interventions. 

The proposals must all feature multiple promising practices, which the CDC has identified, including electronic health record vaccine reminder systems, increased vaccine access through community-based distribution, social media diffusion of knowledge and mass public health campaigns. 

According to Mayhand, the application for the fund was intentionally designed to be straightforward and only consists of a few questions. The review process takes two to three weeks before a decision is made. 

“There’s a lot of mistrust and distrust in our medical and healthcare institutions. There’s a lot of misinformation that’s out there about the vaccine and its safety,” said Mayhand. “But, contrary to popular belief, the pandemic is not over. There’s a lot of uncertainty in what the next phase of the pandemic will hold, so we just need to do everything we can to protect communities.”

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