South Carolina gets $47M to amp up minority vaccine efforts

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COLUMBIA (AP) — South Carolina is getting a $47 million federal boost to its COVID-19 vaccination programs, particularly in minority communities.

The award announced Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is intended to shore up local efforts to expand vaccine deployment. Officials say 75% of the total funding has to go toward programs and initiatives aimed at getting more vaccines into racial and ethnic minority communities.

As an example, the CDC said the money could go toward training people to go door-to-door in their own areas, raise vaccine awareness and help people sign up for vaccine appointments. Funds could also be used to hire community health workers focusing on bilingual outreach.

Black residents — who comprise around 27% of the state's population — represent only 17% of South Carolinians who have gotten at least one vaccine dose, according to state health officials. Numbers are even lower among Latino residents.

"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," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said in a release.

The award — part of $3 billion in total funding going to dozens of jurisdictions across the country — comes from the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that President Joe Biden signed into last last month.

Last month, South Carolina opened vaccination to all residents age 16 and older. As of this week, nearly 1.4 million, or about 33.5% of the total population, have gotten at least one vaccine dose, according to public health officials. More than 784,000, or about 19%, have been fully vaccinated.