The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded UAMS a $10 million grant to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the state.
Funds will be used to mobilize and deploy health workers and social support specialists to the most vulnerable and medically underserved communities across the state, UAMS said in a news release. The effort will also focus on underserved racial and ethnic minority groups.
About 53% of Arkansas' population is fully vaccinated, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Only Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Wyoming have lower vaccination rates.
UAMS said it hopes to strengthen confidence in vaccines by reaching out directly to community members to educate them and help them access resources. It will also help people make vaccine appointments and assist them with transportation to the appointments.
The grant, administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration, is part of $66.5 million in American Rescue Plan funds being used to expand vaccine outreach efforts in 38 states.
“This grant will have far-reaching health benefits for the entire country and for our state,” UAMS Chancellor Dr. Cam Patterson said in the release. “It will require a rapid and efficient start-up and will involve collaboration among multiple departments across UAMS, as well as state, local and regional community organizations. We are very appreciative of HHS and HRSA for making this possible."
Virus-related hospitalizations reached an all-time high in Arkansas on Jan. 26, driven by the highly-transmissible omicron variant and the state's low vaccination rate.
More than 10,000 people in Arkansas have died from the virus.