Ensuring Equity in COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Doctors, nurses, and patients shown in a health center

Engaging Federally Qualified Health Centers

Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)external icon-funded health centers are community-based and patient-directed organizations that deliver affordable, accessible, quality, and cost-effective primary health care to medically underserved communities and disproportionately affected populations, including high-need urban, rural, and frontier communities across the United States.

Nationwide, nearly 1,400 HRSA-funded health centers operate approximately 13,000 sites, providing primary and preventive care on a sliding fee scale to nearly 30 million patients each year. Over 91% of health center patients are individuals or families living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and nearly 63% are racial/ethnic minorities. Health centers across the nation are playing vital roles in supporting local community responses to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program

To ensure our nation’s underserved communities and those disproportionately affected by COVID-19 are equitably vaccinated against COVID-19, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are launching a programexternal icon to directly allocate a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine to select HRSA-funded health centers starting the week of February 15.

This will be an incremental effort as more vaccine becomes available and will be carried out in coordination with the jurisdictions and health centers. This program complements existing jurisdictional efforts to ensure equitable and effective access by providing an additional vaccine supply directly to targeted HRSA-funded health centers that specialize in caring for disproportionately affected populations.

Initial Health Center Selections

The program will begin incrementally at select HRSA-funded health centers that specialize in caring for particularly hard-to-reach and disproportionately affected populations. Health centers will continue to follow state priority guidelines in administering the vaccine and be required to store, handle and administer vaccine according to stated requirements, and meet necessary reporting requirements.

Initial Phase

Initial health centers chosen for this program include those that serve a large volume of one of the following disproportionately affected populations:

  • Public housing residents,
  • Migrant/seasonal agricultural workers,
  • Patients with limited English proficiency, or
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness.

The initial phase of this program will increase access to vaccines to over 250 health centers nationwide. HRSA is working closely with health centers to identify sites that will receive vaccine in the first weeks of the program.  As supply increases, HRSA and CDC will support vaccination in additional targeted health centers.

Phase 2

To further expand the program and accelerate the delivery of vaccines to medically underserved communities and disproportionately affected populations, HRSA and CDC have invited an additional 700 health centers to participate. These 700 health centers increase the total number of health center participants to 950.

The next group of 700 health centers invited to participate in this program include those that:

  • Serve high proportions of low income and minority patients,
  • Provide services to rural/frontier populations,
  • Operate Tribal/Urban Indian Health Programs, and/or
  • Utilize mobile vans to deliver services.

Vaccine supply will be in addition to jurisdictional supply

The allocation provided for this program is separate from jurisdictions’ weekly allocations. Like other programs recently announced, the federal government is providing vaccines to health centers as a way to increase access to vaccines for health centers serving the nation’s underserved communities and disproportionately affected populations. HRSA and CDC will analyze vaccine allocation, distribution, and uptake data to assess onboarding of additional health centers and to inform future vaccine allocation efforts.

This separate federal allocation will be deployed in coordination with jurisdictions.

Please visit https://www.hrsa.gov/coronavirus/health-center-programexternal icon for more information.

Page last reviewed: August 23, 2021