Vaccine Equity Project Santa Barbara County

Source: United Way

United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) announced funding for 13 nonprofit organizations to support vaccination equity strategies across Santa Barbara County. The grants are in response to the national and local trend that shows certain demographic groups are getting vaccinated at lower-rates and that many of these same people have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

In April, UWSBC launched the Vaccination Equity Project (VEP) which pooled $340,000 in philanthropic donations into one fund and invited local nonprofits to apply for funding to support vaccination equity work. Specific strategies funded by the VEP include outreach and engagement strategies designed to educate vulnerable and underserved residents about the health value and importance of vaccinations, convince them to get the shots, assist them in signing up for appointments, and follow through to make sure they actually get vaccinated.

“Vaccine inequity stems from a lack of information and access for a variety of vulnerable populations,” said Steve Ortiz, CEO, of United Way of Santa Barbara County.  “We are pleased to support the work of local nonprofits that are trusted and have strong relationships with people in our community who have been most impacted by the virus.”

Factors that affect the equitable distribution of vaccinations in Santa Barbara County and across the country include false information/perception about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations, lack of access to the Internet and technologies which have become standard tools for most people to sign up for vaccination appointments, transportation challenges, and others.

Research and trends show that certain populations and demographic groups lack adequate access to medical care and health related systems, information, and services that are critical to protecting themselves and their families from the virus. These dynamics are most prevalent among minority groups, recent immigrants, indigenous populations, people from lower-income backgrounds, and culturally, linguistically, and socially isolated populations.

According to the Santa Barbara Public Health Department, concerns can be most starkly seen among Hispanic/Latino/a populations, many of whom are immigrants, from indigenous backgrounds, and from lower income households. Hispanic/Latino/a residents represent 48% of the County’s population but have experienced 57% of the County’s COVID-19 cases, 67% of the County’s hospitalizations, and 50% of the deaths. To date, Hispanic/Latino/a residents make up only 33% of the vaccinations in Santa Barbara County.

Earlier this year, UWSBC convened local experts and funders to devise the best strategies, raise the funding to support grassroots efforts, and select qualified organizations to lead the work.  The local nonprofits funded by the VEP include:

  • Carpinteria Children’s Project
  • Children’s Resource & Referral of Santa Barbara County
  • Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine
  • Equalitech
  • Family Service Agency of Santa Barbara County
  • Future Leaders of America/805 UndocuFund
  • Good Samaritan Shelter
  • Isla Vista Youth Projects
  • La Casa de la Raza
  • Mental Wellness Center
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Santa Maria-Lompoc Branch
  • People’s Self-Help Housing
  • Planned Parenthood California Central Coast
  • Santa Barbara County Education Office, Promotores Network


Cottage Health joined the VEP effort early, has contributed to the effort, and will provide trainings to funded partners to make sure their messaging and activities are effective and informed by the latest information. Other funders include the James S. Bower Foundation, McCune Foundation, Towbes Foundation, Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, Lee Heller, and two anonymous donors.

“Getting information and access to vaccinations for all residents as quickly as possible is critical to ending this pandemic and keeping our community healthy and safe,” said Ron Werft, President & CEO of Cottage Health.  “We are pleased to partner with United Way in this very important work.”

Activities being led by the funded nonprofit organizations include door-to-door literature drops and canvassing, text and email outreach, phone banking, street outreach, assisting people in signing up for appointments, connecting people with transportation services if they are unable to drive to vaccination clinics themselves, arranging for specialized services such as home visits, client follow-up, and providing general assistance to actually get people vaccinated.


Written by WaveComm

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  1. For a change, I agree with Basic…the idea that people don’t know about the vaccine , COVID-19 or the need to act is pretty absurd. People who don’t get the treatment are either misled, ignorant, secluded beyond the pale, or hostile to the idea of helping. This include the Trumpists and the usual angry mob. I wonder if United Way has a plan to reach out to these folks and not just to pretend that people are not “informed”?

  2. The target population here seems to me to be challenged by language and poverty. It’s hard to go to the 2,000 vax a day site at Goleta Cottage Hospital when you don’t have a car. Or an internet connection. Or a doctor. It’s hard to get proper information when you work 12 hours a day and are language-challenged.
    Aside from criticizing such people, who prepare your food and wash the dishes, care for your yards and clean your houses, can we at least support vaccination outreach?
    Supporting SB Neighborhood Clinics is another good way to support disadvantaged populations, if you’re leery of United Way. Though I did give to the United Way/Santa Barbara Foundation collaboration.
    Yes, I believe in direct and mutual aid. I’ve done a lot of that too.

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