Capital One Aids In Equitable Access To COVID Vaccine

Capital One supports community partners to target marginalized and underrepresented communities through vaccination efforts

Rarely do the words “radio DJ,” “syringe” and “church” go together in the same sentence, but in the midst of the greatest public health crisis in over a century, people are putting their hands up (and out) for vaccines. In Richmond, VA, radio host and DJ Oscar Contreras is banding together with local churches to register people for COVID-19 vaccine appointments in areas impacted by the disease, including local LatinX communities. Capital One partner Richmond City Health District (RCHD) is leading the charge, employing creative strategies—like working with DJs such as Contreras—to reduce vaccine hesitancy within these communities, where distrust and misinformation are often barriers to vaccine uptake. 

A public health agency on a mission to expose and address the root causes of health disparities, RCHD has established Community Hubs in the region– temporary, six-week neighborhood pop ups designed to help residents register for and access information about the vaccine. By recognizing and adapting to the unique challenges facing underserved communities, RCHD is breaking down barriers to access in unexpected- and effective- ways. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had especially devastating health effects on Black, LatinX, and immigrant communities. On top of that, Black and LatinX Americans have experienced disproportionately high rates of unemployment and other income losses during the pandemic, a 2020 Economic Policy Institute report found. And yet while these are the communities most in need of support and solutions, they are getting vaccinated at the lowest rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The RCHD and Capital One partners across the Richmond and Washington Metropolitan region are trying to change that, by making vaccine access and education more fair and equitable.

“Expanding vaccine access and information is not just a public health imperative, it’s an economic imperative—particularly in communities of color where Covid-19 has further exposed and deepened already existing racial inequities,” says Andy Navarrete, Capital One Executive Vice President and Head of External Affairs. “The sooner people can access the vaccine, the sooner we can reopen our communities and redouble our focus on the long-term work of building a more inclusive and equitable economy.”

Recognizing that uneven vaccine access is a major barrier to economic recovery, particularly for underserved populations, Capital One has partnered with four organizations to address critical vaccine access and education needs in the Black and LatinX community:

  • Richmond City Health District (Virginia)
  • Community of Hope (District of Columbia)
  • Prince George’s County Memorial Library System & PGCMLS Foundation (Maryland)
  • CASA de Maryland (Maryland)

Addressing the health and economic impacts of the pandemic requires all hands on deck, bringing the collective energy, focus and resources of businesses, nonprofits and governments together to advance solutions. Elected leaders like Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney are especially invested in ensuring the wellbeing of their residents by addressing disparities: “The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Richmonders of color has created new urgency around the need for solutions that put equity in action,” says Stoney. “In Richmond, we believe in the power of partnerships to effect change, which is why I’m so encouraged to see private sector leaders like Capital One coming together with organizations like Richmond City Health District to increase vaccine access and education within our Black and LatinX communities.”

Community of Hope: Dismantling DC residents’ vaccine hesitancy by providing a “trusted voice in their ear”

In Washington D.C., Community of Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to eliminating health inequities in under-resourced communities has been running two vaccination sites within Wards 1 and 8, both of which are majority Black communities. Ward 8, which is 92% Black, has experienced the highest per-capita death rate in the District. But when vaccine rollouts first began in the neighborhood, the Community of Hope team noticed that most of the people lining up for shots were coming from other parts of the city.  

 “We emphasized to D.C. Health that we would prioritize the community we serve to make healthcare access more equitable,” says Leah Garrett, the organization’s Vice President of Development and Communications. 

Since late January 2021, Garrett’s organization has had to address the additional hurdle of notifying at-risk people through trusted resources like community members and medical professionals. In one case, it took her workers far more attempts to fill 50 vaccine slots than they expected in part due to a long history of vaccine hesitancy and betrayal by the medical system against the Black community. To address these trust gaps, the team has recruited seniors to text information about the vaccine to other seniors in their community- a tactic that Garrett says has been highly effective. Through a recent Capital One grant, she hopes to pay a small stipend for the people calling community members. 

“What we saw were residents relying on primary care physicians who are offsetting myths out there and providing a trusted voice in their ear,” says Garrett, who explains that the organization has also broadened its efforts through social media, including sharing testimonials from those recently vaccinated and stories from healthcare workers dispelling misinformation.

“The confidence and excitement I’m feeling right now is that I have an additional level of protection—and that means life to me,” Ward 8 resident Jacque Perry says. “That means if I do have exposure, [then] I won’t have a difficult time.”

Prince George’s County Memorial Library System & Foundation: Bilingual hotlines to help spread the word 

Since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak, Maryland’s Prince George’s County and nearby Montgomery Country have consistently had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in predominantly Black, LatinX, and low-to-moderate income neighborhoods within the state. In the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System, workers recognized an opportunity to create equitable vaccine education and access as they have long been a trusted community resource. For some Library patrons, the barriers included both vaccine education and language access among its growing immigrant population. Building on the work they were already doing to fill the achievement gap during the pandemic, they were able to quickly adapt and spread vaccine education through their existing networks. 

 “With an email list of 400,000 people, we had an opportunity to deliver information about vaccine sites outside of what the County provided,” says Nicholas Brown, the Library’s Chief Operating Officer for Communications and Outreach. “It’s our role as ‘Vaccine Fairies’, if I may, to filter in only good and accessible information from all of these different resources.”

Through Capital One’s grant, the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System plans to staff a bilingual (English/Spanish) vaccine appointment assistance hotline for people to receive assistance with registering for and securing COVID-19 vaccine appointments. The grant will also be used to further enhance the education efforts about the vaccine's effectiveness, as one of the greatest tools to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. 

CASA: Targeting help to the zip codes most in need 

CASA’s  commitment to expanding opportunities for Latino and immigrant populations has continued throughout the pandemic. The organization is viewed as a trusted source of authority, which has allowed them to leverage existing channels to highlight the benefits of vaccination and stop misinformation. 

During the height of the pandemic last year, the zipcode 20783 in Maryland had one of the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases in the state. That’s why CASA is working in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health's Vaccine Equity Taskforce to create vaccine events in the zipcodes hardest hit by the pandemic. Since opening in March, they have vaccinated over 100 individuals.

Capital One’s efforts to expand vaccines access and education builds on its broader COVID-19 relief commitments, which include a $50 million contribution to support nonprofit partners addressing the most pressing needs of local communities impacted by the pandemic, through everything from food and hunger relief to expanding broadband access and supporting small business owners. As a business that is deeply invested in advancing socioeconomic mobility in underserved communities, Capital One also recognizes the devastating impact the pandemic has had on communities of color. The company’s work to address vaccine disparities is a critical extension of its larger commitments to advancing racial equity, including work through the Capital One Impact Initiative. Launched last fall, the Impact Initiative is a $200 million multi-year commitment delivering community grants that will catalyze economic growth in low-and-moderate income communities and close equity and opportunity gaps.

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