The Rockefeller Foundation Launches $20 Million Initiative to Increase Covid-19 Vaccination Rates Among Communities of Color

The Rockefeller Foundation Launches $20 Million Initiative to Increase Covid-19 Vaccination Rates Among Communities of Color

Newark Among Five U.S. Cities Selected by The Foundation to Help Meet its National Equity Vaccination Goal of 70 Million Vaccinations to People of Color by July

NEW YORK | April 13, 2021 – The Rockefeller Foundation has selected Newark as one of five pilot cities to launch a historic $20 million Equity-First Vaccination Initiative to improve the vaccination rate among communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Foundation’s funding will allow United Way of Greater Newark (UWGN) to launch a public education campaign and vaccine education strategy to increase confidence in Covid-19 vaccines by partnering and providing resources to neighborhood organizations, public health entities, government stakeholders, and the faith-based community.

“Because of existing structural inequalities—including health care access, wealth gaps and systematic racism—people of color have been much more likely to both contract Covid-19 and die from this virus,” said Otis Rolley, Senior Vice President for the U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. “The Rockefeller Foundation is launching this initiative because a vaccination strategy that does not seek to directly combat inequities stands to further entrench them.”

UWGN will deploy appropriate culturally competent vaccine information to BIPOC, women and hard to reach populations within the city of Newark. Additionally, UWGN will partner with community-based organizations and clinical partners throughout the city to deliver vaccines through a mobile vaccine strategy in hard-to-reach neighborhoods and with special populations, including the homeless, youth under 25 years who are aging out of foster care, and undocumented residents.

“Equitable vaccine distribution has been a challenge throughout our country, but especially in majority Black and Brown communities that have historically suffered high poverty rates, poor educational outcomes and poor health outcomes as a result of systemic racism,” said Catherine Wilson, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Newark. “We’re excited to be partnering with The Rockefeller Foundation on this important initiative so we can continue working with our cross-sector partners to ensure members of our Newark community have the information they need to make informed decisions about the Covid-19 vaccine and the ability to access it when they are eligible.”

Representing less than one-third of the 74 million people who are now fully vaccinated in the United States, communities of color are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 and three times as likely to be hospitalized as white Americans. To close this gap, the Foundation will initially collaborate with five organizations to deploy equity-first, hyper-local public health interventions in five U.S. cities: Baltimore, Md.; Chicago, Ill.; Houston, Texas; Newark, N.J.; Oakland, Calif. During the second phase of the Initiative, the Foundation will collaborate with several national organizations to take lessons learned from the five cities and ensure that at least 70 million people of color are vaccinated by July 2021.

Equity-First Models to Increase Access and Confidence

The Equity-First Vaccination Initiative will demonstrate and scale hyper-local, community-led programs to improve vaccine access and accurate information across five cities that represent 5 million of the nation’s 95 million adults of color. Learnings from the initiative in Newark and the other four U.S. cities will help inform strategies across the country to increase access to Covid-19 vaccinations in communities of color, contributing to a collective, national north star goal of ensuring at least 70 million people of color will be fully vaccinated by July 2021.

In this first phase of the initiative, the Foundation will provide grant funding to five anchor organizations: Open Society Institute-Baltimore, The Chicago Community Trust, Houston in Action, United Way of Greater Newark, and Roots Community Health Center in Oakland. These organizations will provide resources and additional support to over 100 community-based organizations (CBOs) that will then lead hyper-local community mobilization efforts to better address questions and concerns on when, why, and where to get the vaccine, increase vaccine access, and rollout additional community vaccination sites. In addition, the CBOs will also be connected with public health communications, dis/misinformation, and health marketing experts who will provide accurate, evidence-based information to improve their ability each to address questions and concerns about the Covid-19 vaccines.

An initial poll issued by HIT Strategies, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, of people of color in Newark found that while two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) want to get vaccinated when eligible, half (50 percent) do not know how to get vaccinated. In addition, the poll confirmed systemic health issues facing people of color in Newark today: one in five respondents have trouble getting care when needed, felt disrespected when getting care, and see a doctor less than once a year.

“We want everyone to be confident in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines—but that will only happen if everyone has access to them,” said Greg Johnson, Managing Director for the Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. “People need to see the benefits to their friends, families and loved ones, and be able to get the vaccine from a provider and a place they trust.”

Best practices and impact-to-date from these equity-first models will be synthesized and shared nationally through cross-sector networks, advocacy efforts, convenings, and publications to ensure that the most effective solutions are actively adopted to effectively remove racial vaccination disparities:

  • Knowledge generation: The Foundation will surface barriers and promising solutions observed both nationwide and in our demonstration pilots.
  • Networks: The Foundation will regularly share data and learning with national networks, including the Pandemic Solutions Group (PSG) and the State and Territory Alliance on Testing, to crowd in support from other public, private, and civil society partners to scale models that work.
  • Advocacy: The Foundation will work alongside federal, state, and local governments to further expand awareness about the Initiative’s initial findings and impact as well as advocate for critical policies, targeted resources, and the use of new strategies and tools in order to reach 70 million people of color by July 2021.


About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

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