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Project HOPE, HRSA Expand Access to Thousands of COVID-19 Vaccines

With support from the Health Resources and Services Administration, Project HOPE has helped administer more than 21,000 COVID-19 vaccines through charitable clinics across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

Though COVID-19 vaccines have been widely available for months and have proven effective in preventing severe COVID-19 illness, many parts of the U.S. lag in vaccination rates — especially in the South.

Project HOPE, thanks to funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration, is supporting free and charitable clinics as they work to improve vaccination rates in underserved communities across five states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Three of these states — Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana — have some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country.

To date, Project HOPE has helped administer more than 21,000 COVID-19 vaccines through our partnership with HRSA, including more than 14,000 booster shots. COVID-19 outreach materials have reached more than 356,000 people, and charitable clinics in five states have been able to hire 159 new community health workers.

Read on to visit five charitable clinics Project HOPE is supporting in Alabama and Georgia and learn more about the health workers campaigning to increase vaccination rates in hard-to-reach areas across the South.

Woman in Alabama clinic about to receive COVID vaccine
Minerva, seated, caught COVID-19 twice and knows someone who died from the disease. She has heard widespread misinformation about the vaccine but is committed to staying up-to-date on her vaccinations, including the booster shot she is about to receive at Community of Hope clinic in Pelham, Ala. ALL PHOTOS: Emily Nichols for Project HOPE, 2022.
Minerva leaving after getting her shot
Minerva got her booster shot and a gift card to a local grocery store. She owns a company that runs public events and knows the importance of staying updated on her vaccinations. “I feel much more protected,” she said. “That’s why I came today.”
Conda, seated at St. Clair Community Clinic in Pell City, Ala.
Conda’s mother-in-law died from COVID-19, and she and her husband watched her struggle in her final days. At St. Clair Community Health Clinic in Pell City, Ala., she was able to receive referrals for her vaccines thanks to Project HOPE.
Felicia and her husband John in Pell City, Ala.
Felicia and her husband, John, live in Pell City, Ala., where Project HOPE is helping improve access to COVID-19 vaccines. John is a football coach and caught COVID-19 at work. He has had health complications since then which she believes are related.
Felicia Carter posing in front of her home
Felicia was shopping in a local pharmacy when she saw the clinic offering vaccines. For her, the convenience of getting her booster during her daily routine made a huge difference. Today, she’s an outspoken advocate for the vaccine. “I send a lot of people up there,” she says. “The opportunity is there and it’s free. Go get it.”

In Atlanta, a single highway can determine a person’s life expectancy.

At Good Samaritan Health Clinic in west Atlanta, quality of life depends on what neighborhood you live in — and the social determinants of health that come with it, like economic stability, access to education, and historic discrimination that makes care harder to access.

There is no one barrier that prevents people from getting vaccinated. But in underserved communities, the challenges are compounded. The charitable clinics Project HOPE supports serve patients that are low-income or do not have health insurance; many have struggled with homelessness, incarceration, or documentation. For some communities, there is long-held mistrust about health systems. For others, something as simple as transportation or scheduling around work may be what makes the difference.

Paula at the Good Sam garden in Atlanta
Paula was skeptical that she needed to take the vaccine until a friend convinced her it was worth it. “I wasn’t going to take it — I thought I was safe and was just going to keep wearing my mask,” she says. “Then a friend told me to take the shot. I got it, and two months later I couldn’t get out of bed because of COVID. Thank God I had gotten it.”
Paula in the garden at Good Samaritan in Atlanta
Paula struggled with chronic homelessness for 18 years. At Good Samaritan Health Clinic, she has been able to access mental health counseling along with other essential health care services. In addition to providing primary care, charitable clinics like Good Samaritan often provide other services that benefit a person’s whole health. “They have really taken care of me,” she says.
Paula with her art in Atlanta
Art has been a valuable tool for Paula throughout her mental health journey. Today, she often leads others in sessions to help them understand their journey and connect it back to their whole health. “Everybody wants somebody to hear them,” she says. “Everybody needs somebody.”

One hundred miles down the road in Columbus, Ga., the staff at MercyMed is busy providing primary care (and COVID-19 vaccine referrals) to patients who do not have insurance. But they’re also treating their patients’ whole health by offering vision services, dental treatments, mental health counseling, physical therapy, nutrition, and wellness classes. All services are available for patients on a sliding scale at low cost.

The clinic is a one-stop shop for health care, but it’s also a safe space where patients know their doctors by name and know they won’t be judged. For those who have had difficult experiences with health services in the past, that doctor-patient relationship can be one of the most important they have.

Lamar with the doctor at MercyMed in Columbus
Lamar has struggled with substance use and mental health issues and comes to MercyMed for primary care services. He has formed a close relationship with the clinic’s staff and helps tend to the farm on-site. Since he lives just a few doors down the road in Columbus, he bikes to the clinic multiple times a week just to check in and see the team.
Lamar working at the farm at MercyMed
Working in the on-site farm has made Lamar feel more connected to his health. In addition to his COVID shot, Lamar has benefited from all the clinic’s services, which include vision, dental, mental health counseling, physical therapy, and wellness classes. “I tell people about this place,” he says. “I tell them, ‘Go up there and they’ll treat you, regardless of what you’ve got.'”
Ernest with the doctor at MercyMed in Columbus, Ga.
Ernest spent several years in prison and has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — to him, health care is essential, but it’s also difficult to access. He drives from Alabama to receive care at MercyMed in Columbus, including a free COVID-19 shot thanks to Project HOPE’s support.
Arthur outside MercyMed in Columbus
Arthur previously contracted COVID-19 and had to go on a ventilator for several weeks. He almost died from his experience and does not remember where he got the scar that now lines his face. Thankfully, he had been vaccinated when he caught COVID-19 and is a vaccinate advocate for those in his community.
Donald outside his RV in Toccoa, Ga.
Donald and his friend Sandra received their first COVID-19 vaccine at Open Arms Clinic, a free and charitable clinic Project HOPE supports in Toccoa, Ga. Marie, a Community Health Worker at the clinic, encouraged Donald to get his vaccination and was there to administer his first shot. As part of Project HOPE’s support, patients who recieve COVID-19 vaccines receive gift cards they can use at local grocery stores. The incentives have helped make it easy for people to choose to get vaccinated and protect themselves and their families.

The Community-Based Workforce to Build COVID-19 program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,755,265, with 100 percent funded by HRSA. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA/HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit the HRSA website, hrsa.gov.

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