Bloomberg Philanthropies Commits Over $6 Million to Increase Mobile Unit COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts by America’s Four Historically Black Medical Schools in Black Communities
New support follows historic $100 million gift in September through its Greenwood Initiative to help ease debt burden of 800 Black medical students at these four schools
Investment will increase the capacities of Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science to help ensure equitable access to vaccines within Black communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic
NEW YORK, NY – Today, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced it will provide more than $6 million collectively to the nation’s four historically Black medical schools to expand their mobile unit COVID-19 vaccine operations in their local communities of Nashville, Tennessee; Washington, DC; Atlanta, Georgia and Los Angeles, California. Bloomberg Philanthropies is deepening its partnership with Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science as equity and public health advocates have signaled the need for trusted vaccine administrators to combat lack of access and vaccine hesitancy within Black and medically underserved communities. The schools’ mobile units reach the most vulnerable and work with trusted partners, such as churches and senior centers, to set up temporary vaccination sites. The support from Bloomberg Philanthropies will provide mobile medical unit upgrades, paid staffing for the units, medical supplies, and increase outreach to the community to help each institution expand vaccine access within Black communities and to significantly increase their weekly vaccination rates.
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative is an effort to accelerate the pace of Black wealth accumulation in the United States and address decades of systemic underinvestment in Black communities. The first investment of the initiative, made last September during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a $100 million partnership with the nation’s four historically Black medical schools to help ease the debt burden of approximately 800 Black medical students. Studies have shown that Black patients have better health outcomes when cared for by Black doctors but Black medical students face a disproportionate financial burden to become doctors. Both gifts address the significant economic impact of persisting health disparities within the Black community and the importance of access to trusted healthcare providers and institutions.
“COVID-19 has been devastating to the health and economic wellbeing of many Black families – and right now, increasing equitable access to vaccines is one way we can serve the needs of those who need it most,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and 108th mayor of New York City. “Bloomberg Philanthropies is glad to expand our partnership with America’s four historically Black medical schools as they ramp up their mobile operations and ensure that more people get their shots quickly.”
The health and economic impacts of COVID-19 disproportionately hurt the Black community. Black individuals are less likely to have the ability to work from home and make up almost 17% of all front-line-industry workers. This increases the risk of exposure for Black Americans who are three times more likely than white individuals to contract COVID-19, and twice as likely to die from it. Black people are also less likely to have paid sick days, leaving many who have recovered from COVID-19 with stalled income and the additional burden of medical bills. This is exacerbated by the fact that 12.3% of Black workers are uninsured vs. 7.5% of white workers making it more likely that Black workers will be burdened with costly medical bills if they get sick, and 73% of Black Americans say they do not have substantial financial reserves to cover sizeable emergency expenses.
Between February and April of 2020, the number of Black self-employed businesses owners declined by 41% compared to 17% of white self-employed businesses owners. April – May of last year, 36% of Black households were experiencing food insecurity vs. 18% of white households, and according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Black unemployment rate is at 10%, almost two times higher than the white unemployment rate.
The COVID-19 vaccines can help improve the negative health impacts and resulting financial strain COVID-19 has on the Black community but outreach is key. There is a clear disparity between white vaccination rates and Black vaccination rates across the U.S. Unreliable transportation, limited access to the internet to book appointments, and long, inflexible work hours are just some of the hurdles individuals face when trying to get vaccinated – this is why Meharry Medical College, Howard University College of Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science’s community outreach efforts are imperative. These schools have spent decades building trusted relationships in their communities and mobile clinics have historically improved access to care for the medically underserved.
To date, Meharry Medical College has vaccinated nearly 3,500 people and adds considerable avenues for vaccination weekly. With the additional support from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the College will use their mobile unit to target urban and rural community populations living in senior housing, low-income city housing in northern and southeastern Nashville, and rural Davidson County, and establish vaccination efforts through a network of Black churches. They expect to provide a significant increase in vaccinations through the mobile unit operation over the coming months.
“For nearly 150 years, Meharry Medical College has served those unduly burdened by the nation’s health inequities,” said Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, President and CEO of Meharry Medical College. “Black Americans and our nation’s medically underserved are fighting two pandemics – COVID-19 and racial inequality. Minority communities have historically suffered from medical mistreatment and lack of access to quality health care but are now expected to trust a system that has neglected them for decades. As leaders in the healthcare community, it is our imperative to break this cycle and establish trust throughout our communities. Our deepened relationship with Bloomberg Philanthropies will continue to bring awareness to these systemic issues and provide the protection and care our communities deserve.”
Howard University has vaccinated more than 25,000 people since December 2020. Howard’s efforts are focused on serving those most in need, including Black communities in areas that have low vaccination rates. This effort is coordinated in partnership with the District of Columbia as both an on-site vaccination clinic and mobile support unit in communities in need of vaccine access. Funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies will allow the College of Medicine to purchase a new, larger mobile unit to meet vaccination demand in Washington, D.C. and stand up a call center to make appointments over the phone for those who are unable to schedule online appointments.
“I am immensely grateful for the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative,” said Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA. “Howard University plays an outsized role in caring for the Black community in Washington, D.C. While this is always the case, it has been especially true during the pandemic. We have already vaccinated more than 25,000 people locally, but there are still many more who have struggled to access the vaccine and continue to be at greater risk. By helping fund our mobile unit, Bloomberg will enable us to vaccinate more of the Black community, a critical step in mitigating the effects of a devastating virus that has disproportionately affected African-American individuals.”
Morehouse School of Medicine has administered 5,200 vaccinations to date, more than 1,000 vaccine doses per month. With their increased capacity they’ll be focusing outreach in southwest and southeast Atlanta –where the population is 92% Black – and getting vaccines to those who have issues with transportation, access to the internet to make appointments, or who cannot travel at all due to a disability or other circumstance.
“This pandemic has pulled the curtain down on the glaring socio-economic and health inequities that make black and brown populations vulnerable to illness and death from COVID-19,” said Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice. “Morehouse School of Medicine is committed to health equity and advancing public health, and we have done work in this space for more than 40 years. We are immensely grateful for this gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Greenwood Initiative, which will allow us to increase our vaccination initiatives and reach vulnerable populations that still struggle with vaccine accessibility.”
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science has given approximately 52,000 vaccinations this year through its clinical and community partnerships. The University and its partners usually have between 50 – 100 people added to the waitlist per day. Funding will allow for the purchase of two new medical units to help the University target Black and LatinX communities in both urban and more rural areas that are hardest hit and that have not been served with the standard vaccination models. Charles R. Drew is also uniquely positioned to focus their vaccination efforts on homeless communities, which they have historically served through long-standing local partnerships.
“On behalf of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, and most important, the thousands of low-income people of color this award will enable us to reach with additional mobile health units, I’d like to express our deep appreciation to Bloomberg Philanthropies,” said CDU President and CEO, Dr. David M. Carlisle. “Together with last year’s Bloomberg Philanthropies grant to help reduce medical school debt for our students, this award will greatly help us improve access to health care in our most vulnerable, under-resourced communities. Thank you again.”
For more information on the historically Black medical schools please visit:
Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science: https://www.cdrewu.edu/
Howard University College of Medicine: https://medicine.howard.edu/
Meharry Medical College: https://home.mmc.edu/
Morehouse School of Medicine: https://www.msm.edu/
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 810 cities and 170 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2020, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.6 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
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Rachel Nagler, Bloomberg Philanthropies, email@example.com