$1M Grant Will Help SCD Patients in Western US Get COVID-19 Vaccine

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by Marta Figueiredo PhD |

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The Sickle Cell Disease Foundation (SCDF) will use a $1 million grant to educate sickle cell disease (SCD) patients living in the western U.S. about the COVID-19 vaccine and assist them in accessing vaccination programs.

The goal is to increase the number of SCD patients in western U.S. states who are getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

The grant was awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as part of its Local Community-Based Workforce to Increase COVID-19 Vaccine Access program.

That program, which launched in May, aims to address persistent COVID-19 and increasing Delta variant health disparities by providing support and resources to vulnerable and medically underserved communities, such as racial and ethnic minority groups. While the exact number of SCD patients in the U.S. is unknown, the blood disorder primarily affects Black Americans, especially those whose ancestors came from Africa, and Hispanic Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“We are honored to have received this award,” Mary Brown, SCDF’s president and CEO, said in a press release.

“Our Foundation is committed to mitigating the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on the BIPOC [Black, indigenous, and people of color] community by increasing vaccination rates,” Brown said.

“All Californians, regardless of where they live, their working environment or their social supports deserve to live a healthy life,” she added.

With this funding, the SCDF will establish a one-year collaborative project, called “Networking Sickle Cell for Vaccine Access in the Western Region.” In addition to SCD patients in California, it will target people living in at least five other states, including Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and Colorado.

The program will involve SCDF’s satellite offices and the Pacific Sickle Cell Regional Collaborative, a network of SCD community-based organizations throughout 13 states in the Pacific Region.

By using the existing programs, services, and activities of these organizations, the foundation expects to rapidly form teams within each participating state to improve COVID-19 vaccine education, increase access to vaccine sites, and get as many people vaccinated as possible.

The teams supported by this grant will answer individual questions, help make vaccine appointments, and assist with transportation and other needs.

“It’s absolutely critical that all Californians are vaccinated in order to help reach herd immunity,” said Asuquo Moses Akpan, president of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Arizona.

“We’re so grateful to have this partnership with the Sickle Cell Disease Foundation and to be the messengers in our community to make sure all populations and all individuals are protected against COVID-19,” Akpan said.

SCDF was among 127 organizations awarded funding by the Health Resources and Services Administration in July. The agency altogether granted $121 million to support vaccine education and increase vaccine confidence, and to address barriers to vaccination among people in underserved communities.