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Contact: Marisol Murphy-Ballantyne
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For Immediate Release 
March 4, 2021

Health Center CEO Advocates for New Vaccine Rollout Category
Category for Underserved Population Would Make Vaccine Access More Equitable

Silver Spring, MD-– CCI Health & Wellness Services President and CEO Sonya Bruton called on the Maryland State Department of Health to remove some barriers to equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine. During a roundtable hosted by Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen on improving access to COVID-19 vaccines for the communities most-at-risk, the CEO noted that the organization is grateful to the state for providing vaccines for some of their patients and staff. However, the state’s restrictions have also hampered their ability to vaccinate many of the hardest-hit populations.  

“We are part of Joe Biden’s community health center, vaccination program, which means we can order direct from the [federal government] that takes away that barrier of access to the vaccine. We have access. However, we can’t give it to the people who need it,” remarked Dr. Bruton. “What we need is permission from the state to have a category called underserved communities that will allow us to use the access that we have to give the vaccines.”

The community health center was recently selected as the first Federally Qualified Health Center in Maryland to receive COVID-19 vaccinations as part of the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program. The program is part of the Biden Administration’s efforts to increase equitable distribution of the vaccine focusing on populations with barriers to accessing the vaccine. 

A part of a long tradition of community health centers serving more than 30 million individuals across the United States, CCI is uniquely positioned to reach these populations. Located in the state’s largest counties, CCI serves 60,000 people a year—including medical and WIC services— many of whom are essential workers and for who language may be a barrier to care. Fifty-five percent of CCI’s 33,000 medical patients fall within the vaccine manufacturers’ guidelines for receiving the vaccine. However, only five percent of those patients are eligible for the vaccine under the current 1C phase.

To address possible inequities in administering the vaccine, the organization provides the vaccine to its patients following the state’s phase protocol while maintaining a waiting list. The health center directly contacts patients, screens them to make sure they can receive the vaccine, and schedules their dose. CCI also provides Uber and Lyft vouchers for those patients who face transportation barriers. 

However, the organization recognizes that trust is also a barrier for the communities they serve, especially with the COVID-19 vaccines. That is where the nearly 50-year-old, uniquely diverse organization shines. 

“We mirror the complexion and the complexities of this community. We know our patients and our participants. They know us, we look like them, we speak their language, and that embeds that extra layer of trust. So we’re operating in that trust system,” said Dr. Bruton

About CCI Health & Wellness Services
CCI Health & Wellness Services is a 49-year-old Federally Qualified Health Center that serves 60,000 medical patients and Women Infant’s & Children (WIC) participants in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. As a 501(c)3 non-profit, CCI is committed to providing high-quality, affordable primary healthcare to every patient across all life stages. Visit www.cciweb.org for more information.