AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Department of State Health Services is offering financial help to organizations across the state that are willing to help promote the COVID vaccine in underserved and rural communities.
DSHS already awarded one round of grants last year, and the deadline to apply for the second round has been extended to Jan. 28, 2022.
The Texas Familias Council, based outside the Houston area, received part of that first round of funding.
“Since we’re working with local food banks, mental health organizations, and trying to get resources out into the community, it was just a natural fit for us to look at seeing how can we use the experience that we’ve gained, and maybe expand that into the community,” the group’s president, Maria Banos Jordan, explained.
For the past three months, the council has been distributing pamphlets in their area, urging more of their community to get vaccinated, and dispelling misinformation.
“With immigrant and Latino, Spanish-speaking communities, that can be a very, very difficult challenge to overcome, because they don’t have access to all the information at the time that you know, most English speakers do,” Jordan said.
The group has already been serving in their community for the past decade, which can help get through to those who are still hesitant.
“People want to have a trusted source,” Dr. David Lakey with the Texas Medical Association’s COVID-19 Task Force said. “We have to continue to try and get the right information out there.”
The Texas Familias Council is also spending the money to hire more volunteers to spread the word.
“Hiring community outreach educators that can spend that one on one time to sit down and talk with families or attend a PTA meeting, or go to a homeowner’s association meeting,” Jordan said.
They’re also hosting conveniently located vaccine clinics.
“Sometimes it’s not hesitancy, because because of any particular belief, it’s people have just put it off because they’re working very hard,” she said.
While new vaccinations are too late to curb the current omicron surge, doctors say it’s still crucial to fight future variants.
“There can easily be other variants that come our way. And just because you’ve had a mild case of it doesn’t mean that you’re protected. And doesn’t mean that you can’t transmit the next variant to somebody that you really, really care about,” Dr. Lakey said.
The grants range from $50,000 to $150,000.
Organizations can also qualify to apply if they focus on children, tribal nations, or are based in one of the 10 counties in Texas with the lowest vaccination rates.
For more information on how to apply, click here.