CHAMPAIGN — In the race to get more people vaccinated for COVID-19, the state is awarding grants to two Champaign County organizations to help reach the vulnerable and underserved people most likely to be missing out.
The NAACP of Champaign County and Immigrant Services of Champaign-Urbana both were notified this week that they will receive Pandemic Health Navigator grants from the Illinois Public Health Association.
The NAACP will receive $200,000 and will be sending out about a dozen health navigators to boost outreach and education about vaccine and opportunities to be vaccinated, according to Minnie Pearson, president of the Champaign County chapter.
Immigrant Services is receiving $223,000 to employ immigrant community leaders to serve as navigators to provide preventive health education and information about where and when to receive vaccines, according to Executive Director Ben Mueller.
Both organizations will also be working with people they serve who test positive for COVID-19 to make sure they are connected with the resources they need, such as food, medicine, transportation and rent-assistance programs. Both have already been doing this outreach throughout the pandemic, but now they’ll have funding to help cover their costs and do more, according to Awais Vaid, deputy administrator for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
The health district has been working with both groups to help with trust and language barriers that might be preventing some people who test positive from getting the help they need, and that partnership will continue, he said.
Mueller said Immigrant Services plans to approach Rantoul Foods to get educational materials about COVID-19 vaccines to its Latino employees and to work with OSF HealthCare, which has been operating vaccine clinics at the Rantoul Youth Center, to help get those employees connected with vaccine appointments.
Mueller still sees a lot of outreach work to do.
“And I think that’s one of the things this grant will really help us do is get the word out on a much larger scale,” he said.