In this file photo, nurse Veronica DeJesus administers the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to her colleague, patient access specialist Isamar Alvarez, early on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at Lancaster Health Center, now Union Community Care.  (Source: Provided)
In this file photo, nurse Veronica DeJesus administers the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine to her colleague, patient access specialist Isamar Alvarez, early on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at Lancaster Health Center, now Union Community Care. (Source: Provided)

Lancaster will be part of a pilot program to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to underserved and hard-to-reach populations, Gov. Tom Wolf's administration announced Thursday.

Local Innovations in Vaccine Equity in Pennsylvania, or LIVE PA, is a collaboration of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Advocacy and Reform and the United Way of Pennsylvania.

The initiative will administer $4 million in mini-grants to partnerships of vaccine providers and "hyper-local grassroots nonprofit organizations" so they can work together to overcome barriers to vaccination.

Local United Way chapters will work closely with the partners and will reach out to targeted communities through traditional and digital media.

Dan Jurman, who previously headed Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County, is executive director of the Office of Advocacy and Reform and chairs the racial equity subcommittee of the state's Covid-19 joint task force.

As the subcommittee examined barriers to vaccination, it became clear that solutions "already existed in the grassroots nonprofits that already serve those populations," Jurman said. "We just needed to get them the resources to connect with vaccinators and do the work."

The program "will help bring the financial resources to support small nonprofits, churches, other community and neighborhood organizations with the relationship power to increase equitable vaccine distribution,” said Kristen Rotz, President of United Way of Pennsylvania.

The pilot phase focuses on 20 ZIP codes in 10 communities that are home to census tracts with high levels of poverty and heath and vaccine inequity. Once it is complete, LIVE PA will scale up statewide.

It will offer reimbursements of $10 per vaccine shot, with total grants ranging from $200 to $20,000 per vaccination clinic.

LIVE PA - pilot phase

The following ZIP codes are targeted in the first phase of the Local Innovations in Vaccine Equity in Pennsylvania project

⦁ Allentown: 18102, 18101, 18105

⦁ Braddock: 15104

⦁ Chester: 19013

⦁ Erie: 16503, 16501, 16507

⦁ Harrisburg: 17110, 17103

⦁ Johnstown: 15907

Lancaster: 17602, 17603

⦁ McKeesport: 15134

⦁ Pittsburgh: 15219, 15208, 15282, 15264

⦁ Reading: 19601, 19602

Source: Pa. Governor's Office

"The design of this grant will finally bring funding to the sector least supported by this era of government subsidy," said Kevin Ressler, president and CEO of the United Way of Lancaster County.

Large entities and for-profit health providers may be more efficient, he said, and large-scale vaccination was absolutely needed, "but efficiency is the enemy of equity."

"Our non-profit agencies understand that equity requires sharpening our pencils and doing the hard, inefficient work to provide solutions," he said.

Union Community Care, a nonprofit federally qualified health center, has conducted numerous pop-up Covid-19 vaccine clinics already, and has more scheduled, including two this weekend in partnership with Patients R Waiting and the Lancaster LGBTQ+ Coalition.

Union Community Care plans to participate in LIVE PA, and a call is planned next week "to discuss a door-to-door strategy," spokeswoman Nicole Specht said.

Gov. Tom Wolf called LIVE PA "another key component to ease access and hesitancy to the COVID-19 vaccines.

"I look forward to the impact this project will make to further combat the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.

Tim Stuhldreher