A summary of presentations from the weekly Summit partner webinars


August 5, 2021

Program Overview: Partnering for Vaccine Equity – Chelsea Toledo, MA, MPH (CDC)

Chelsea Toledo, MA, MPH, senior health communications advisor, partnering for vaccine equity, CDC contractor–ASRT, gave a presentation on CDC’s Partnering for Vaccine Equity program.

CDC’s Partnering for Vaccine Equity program focuses on partnerships between national, state, local, and community-level partner organizations with the shared purpose of taking action to increase vaccine confidence and reduce disparities in vaccination access and uptake experienced by racial and ethnic minority groups.

Racial disparities in immunizations have been a long-standing issue. Small reductions in vaccine coverage can lead to large increases in illnesses as can be seen with COVID-19 vaccine. This is a serious health threat. Survey research shows that 19% of Black adults and 18% of Hispanic adults reported wanting to “wait and see” before seeking COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 13% of white adults.

There are three major concerns among Black and Hispanic adults who are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Not knowing the long-term effects of COVID-19 vaccination
  • Experiencing serious side effects from COVID-19 vaccination
  • Getting COVID-19 from the vaccine

CDC is working to reduce these disparities through their program, “Partnering for Vaccine Equity.” The vision for this program is to reduce racial and ethnic disparities that exist in vaccination rates (both for COVID-19 as well as for all adult vaccines), and increase knowledge and vaccine access through partnerships that drive community-level action to support racial and ethnic minority groups in getting vaccinated.

In July 2020, CDC held an expert listening session with community leaders so that they could understand the factors driving racial and ethnic disparities in adult immunization and come up with effective strategies to address them. There were three major findings of this session:

  • Racial and ethnic disparities are an urgent matter, and they must be addressed at a community level
  • We need to provide influential leaders in the communities with accurate and culturally appropriate information
  • We need to increase access to vaccination

Those initial efforts informed the approach to provide direct support as well as funding to the national, state, local, and community levels to carry out activities that promote vaccine access and acceptance. Providing the partners with educational support, concise data, and sharing communication all help in the effort to mitigate misinformation surrounding vaccines.

CDC provides funding, learning and data support, technical assistance, and toolkits to partners working at all levels to support local and community partners, including indirect support of national organizations’ local chapters and branches.

The program, consisting of 22 national organizations, provides more than $150 million in funding to support partners working to increase vaccine confidence among racial and ethnic minority groups. The organizations provide support to approximately 500 local- and community-based organizations to promote both flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. The program also supports five organizations working to combat mis- and disinformation on social media. All of the organizations are connected through a Learning Community where they can share their expertise and lean from subject matter experts to speed the use of best practices and build the evidence base for equitable access to adult immunization.

Since January, state, territorial and local vaccination programs and health departments have received $6 billion to support COVID-19 vaccination as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, with a percentage of the funds assigned to populations at greater risk.

CDC developed a Guide for Awardees that provides support on the use of the funds. It also is useful to help jurisdictions partner with communities to design customized, effective activities intended to increase vaccine access and acceptance in minority communities. The CDC has also helped jurisdictions by providing them support and data analysis to identify these communities and their most pressing needs.

The CDC developed a Guide for Community Partners that is intended to support community organizations who play a fundamental role in these efforts, as they understand the community needs. Additionally, it helps design and implement activities to increase vaccine acceptance and is available in both English and Spanish.

The final resource is a Guide for Jurisdictions, which provides information on how to expand COVID-19 vaccination through primary care providers. CDC provides jurisdictions with analysis of practices enrolled in census sections with high scores in the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to allow the identification of areas with greater needs.

National, state, and local partners are provided with data analysis services that are specific to their communities to help them plan their efforts. Through the data support, CDC is able to provide maps and tables to identify and prioritize census sections in the communities that have high risk for influenza complications. The data combined with technical assistance helps partners find the areas with the greatest needs so that they are able to tailor their messages accordingly.

The CDC has a Learning Community intended to support all the network partners so that they can accelerate their program and share effective practices and materials to help each other overcome challenges. Through the Learning Community partners can participate in workshops, webinars, and cohort-based insight sharing. This effort builds upon the previous success of the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program.

CDC’s Partnering for Vaccine Equity program deploys communication with two main objectives. The first objective is to increase vaccine acceptance in minority communities by distributing accurate information on social media to counteract myths and misinformation. The second objective is to deliver positive messages to communities and community leaders about the vaccine through culturally appropriate messages.

The work will continue beyond the urgency of the COVID-19 response and upcoming flu season. The program is intended to ensure a long-term impact in racial and ethnic minority groups with the potential of expansion to other adult populations of interest.

Individual contact information for program leaders can be found on the slides for this presentation, as well as can organizations you can connect with if you’d like to get involved in the program.

CDC offers a webinar CDC Vaccine Equity Event: Spotlight on Community-Based Organizations that introduces the “Partnering for Vaccine Equity” program if you’d like to learn more.


Are you going to be doing any additional webinars and can you address what might be the emphasis of the group on flu vaccine? Is this group equally devoted to all adult immunizations or just focused on COVID-19 vaccinations?

Chelsea Toledo:

CDC has a COVID-19 vaccine response and the “Partnering for Vaccine Equity” program. The program is focused on all adult immunizations moving forward, including COVID-19. There are webinars planned for our funded partners through the Learning Community. We do not have any additional webinars planned at this time, but we are in a brainstorming junction in thinking through what might be useful to present.

Partnering for Vaccine Equity Program – Jacqui Burton (Conference of National Black Churches)

Jacqui Burton, president of Conference of National Black Churches, gave a presentation on what her group has been doing to promote vaccine equity and uptake.

The Conference of National Black Churches (CNBC) is a partner of the CDC’s Partnering for Vaccine Equity program. CNBC’s “Black Church Mobilizing African American Communities to Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy” program is comprised of the seven largest historically Black denominations in the country, representing 30,000 churches and 20 million people.

Polls show that African Americans trust their faith leaders more than they trust other leaders in the community. CNBC is bringing leaders of the denominations together to teach them how to speak to their congregations to increase vaccine acceptance and to debunk some of the myths that are related to taking the vaccine. Their current goal is to train three thousand pastors (10% of their 30,000 churches) to be able to speak to their congregations about taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Trainings for the pastors involve talking about the history of racial disparities among African Americans, getting encouragement from other faith leaders, and being given accurate information about the vaccine. They also learn about the importance of getting vaccinated and why it’s important to do so. Black church has been the strongest voice in the African American community throughout history, so it has more influence than any other African American organization in the community.

Many CNBC members, faith leaders, and others in the church have taken to going into rural areas where there is a particularly low rate of vaccine uptake and a lower probability of access to the internet. CNBC has armed members with iPads so that they can go door to door and help people get signed up to get their vaccine.

In these rural areas many people lack health insurance and are unwilling to sign up for the vaccine due to the thought that they will have to pay for it. They also have limited access to healthcare facilities, so CNBC is setting up mobile vaccine sites often at the very churches the people already attend. The churchs’ offer to have someone pick them up, and take them to the church so that they can get the vaccine at very little inconvenience.

Historically a lot of Black citizens have not trusted the American medical system due to the belief that they aren’t being truthful. CNBC is doing everything they can to convince the Black community that the vaccine is safe and effective. CNBC wants the African American community to understand that getting the vaccine isn’t a choice; everyone is responsible for protecting the lives of family and community members around them by getting vaccinated. CNBC says it’s also important to encourage others to get vaccinated, as well.

One of the biggest challenges they are finding is getting young adults to accept the vaccine. They have discovered that young people in the church who have accepted the vaccine may be a trusted voice to impress upon their peers who have not gotten the vaccine.

Ms. Burton expressed her belief this is a war they can win, and she is not discouraged by low vaccine rates in African American communities. Pastors are the key to reaching these communities as they are intertwined in their community members’ lives and are trusted figures to spread the word that getting the COVID-19 vaccine is the right thing to do.

CNBC is currently getting people vaccinated against COVID-19 but will soon start offering the flu vaccine at their pop-up clinics, as well. They are conducting town halls across the country and in December they are holding their annual national consultation where they are bringing 1,000 church leaders together to listen to the message on vaccines.


Is there planning being done on managing vaccine clinics where you are administering both flu and COVID-19 vaccine? Do you you anticipate any challenges with messages regarding co-administration of flu and COVID-19 vaccine? Any advice for the rest of us?

Jacqui Burton

We are doing pop-up sites in places with gospel music and plenty of food to attract our community and are not anticipating any hesitancy with regard to the flu or other adult vaccines. We are grateful for the opportunity to promote those vaccines in the midst of what is still a pandemic.

I urge those who have any concerns or need some way to encourage people to use their churches and trusted leaders. For questions, contact our office at: (404)-688-6052. 


What are some ways that the CNBC has tried to overcome some of the political overtones that have influenced messaging and hesitancy around the vaccine? How do you combat that and bring it back to keeping people safe?

Jacqui Burton

We are nonpartisan but we tell people to please not be influenced by any political positions or rhetoric when it comes to your health. It’s a matter of life or death for us. It’s very stressful because you know what’s on the line. You know that if someone doesn’t get the shot that he or she or their family members might get sick. It’s a matter of, “do you want to live?” If you want to live, then you need to get the vaccine.


How are you making personal connections in your community?

Jacqui Burton

Our message comes out of love; Black churches represent a loving community. We don’t want to frighten people. That’s why we have our people to pick up the phone or knock on the door. People have to know that it’s not a stranger or someone who will give them false information, but someone coming to them out of love and concern for their health and well-being.

We still face a number of challenges in the African American community. We have to do everything that we can to elevate our lives to a point that living does matter. No matter how little you have you have, you have potential and there are little things you can do to improve the quality of life. It’s the loving community and that message, and wrapping your arms around people and saying, “come on, do this with me; I’ve done it and it worked out fine.” At the end of the day that’s what makes a difference.

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