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SC to receive $47M from CDC to boost COVID vaccine uptake, especially among minorities

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North Charleston vaccine09.jpg (copy)

Zena Gorgeis, a pharmacy student at MUSC, gives a vaccine shot to Kirk Simmons during the Palmetto Palace mobile health unit vaccination site and food drive at Tricounty Family Ministries on March 31, 2021 in North Charleston. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

COLUMBIA — South Carolina will receive more than $47 million from the federal government to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates in the state, with most of the funds directed toward minority communities.

At least 75 percent of the money must be spent on initiatives increasing vaccine access among racial and ethnic minorities. Most of the money must go to local health departments, community-based organizations or community health centers, according to the April 6 announcement shared first with The Post and Courier.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distributed the funds as part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package signed by President Joe Biden last month.

Giving examples of how the money can be spent, the CDC suggested training residents to go door to door in their own communities to educate people about the vaccines and help them make appointments, and hiring bilingual health workers to explain the process to residents who speak another language.

South Carolina's minority communities have been harder to reach with the vaccine.

For instance, despite making up 27 percent of the state's population, Black people represent just 17 percent of South Carolina residents who have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine so far, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

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Hispanic residents make up 6 percent of the state's population but represent only 2.5 percent of the South Carolinians who have gotten at least one dose.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said the federal agency is doing all it can to expand access to the vaccines.

"Millions of Americans are getting vaccinated every day, but we need to ensure that we are reaching those in the communities hit hardest by this pandemic," Walensky said. "This investment will support state and local health departments and community-based organizations as they work on the frontlines to increase vaccine access, acceptance, and uptake."

The latest installment of federal financial help comes a few weeks after the White House announced that 23 community health centers in South Carolina would receive more than $95 million in total funding from the COVID-19 relief package.

A new federal community vaccination center, which will be capable of administering 7,000 doses per week, is also slated to open in Columbia by April 14.

Mary Katherine Wildeman contributed to this report from Charleston. Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

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