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COVID-19

Texas To Administer $10 Million In Grants To Help Local Organizations Improve COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

Vaccines_GP_March2021.jpg
Gabriel C. P´erez
/
KUT
Diana Hayes receives a coronavirus vaccine at a clinic hosted by the Central Texas Allied Health Institute and the African American Youth Harvest Foundation in March.

As COVID-19 vaccination rates wane, Texas is planning to award $10 million in grants to local organizations to help them promote vaccination efforts.

The program — the Texas Vaccine Outreach and Education Grant — will offer $50,000 to $150,000 grants to groups working to educate the public about vaccines. Priority will be given to groups that focus on reaching rural areas, communities of color and people with disabilities. The goal is to get more people vaccinated and slow the spread of disease.

So far, just 52.23% of people 12 and older in Texas are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. And over the last few weeks, low vaccination rates and the highly contagious delta variant have spurred a rise in cases across the state.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now urging vaccinated people to again don masks in areas with high infection rates. That includes Central Texas.

Here, local leaders are recommending people, even those vaccinated, wear masks in public as hospitals are again finding themselves overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases. As of Tuesday, 292 people were hospitalized with the virus in the Austin area — a volume not seen since February.

Officials say the vast majority of those people are unvaccinated. Of the 95 people with COVID in local ICUs on Tuesday, for example, only four were vaccinated, Austin-Travis County Health Authority Dr. Desmar Walkes said.

About 63% of people 12 and older in Travis County are fully vaccinated. Local vaccination rates are going up incrementally, according to Austin Public Health interim Director Adrienne Stirrup. Stirrup told Travis County commissioners this week that every slight increase is a move in the right direction, like in Del Valle, where a 1% increase in first-dose vaccination rates was enough to put the area over the 50% mark.

“It is great to see and continues to support the necessity for all the boots on the ground and mobile vaccine and community-based vaccine operations that are going on throughout the community," she said.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is working with Texas A&M University Health Science Center to administer this new grant program. DSHS says it encourages education agencies, faith-based organizations, government entities, community coalitions, associations and nonprofits to apply for these federal funds.

“Community-based organizations have played a critical role in ensuring people across Texas have access to COVID-19 vaccines, and they have innovative ideas about how to engage the communities they work with,” Imelda Garcia, DSHS associate commissioner for laboratory and infectious disease services, said in a press release. “These grants will give them the resources to expand their efforts to serve hard-to-reach communities that have been seriously affected by the pandemic.”

The funds will be awarded for projects that last between six and nine months. Organizations can submit their proposals starting Wednesday. The deadline is 5 p.m. Aug. 20. Applications can be found here.

KUT's Jerry Quijano contributed reporting.

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