Alisa Jones, Union Community Care president and CEO, has been appointed to Governor Tom Wolf’s COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force Racial Equity Subcommittee.

The formation of several subcommittees was announced this month, focusing on what the administration calls “key audiences and issues”. The racial subcommittee responds to the CDC findings of “long-standing systemic health and social inequities (that) have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.”

Jones stated that Hispanics or Latinos make 8% of the Commonwealth’s population, but only represent 1% of all those who have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine; Black, Latino and other minority populations across the nation also have higher rates of infection, hospitalization and deaths compared to non-Hispanic white population.

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Read More: Lancaster Health Center and Welsh Mountain Health Centers announce new name for upcoming merged center

Jones said she is “honored and humbled” with the appointment, calling Wolf’s initiative “forward thinking”, as well as “critically important”. Jones explained that equity is “really the idea that for those who have been most affected, we should ensure that they have more access, and that access is available where they need it, and when they need it.”

Stating that her job at Union is to “look through this equity lens”, Jones recognizes the importance of “who says it” in regard to information, as well as technological, language and even work schedule barriers that could prevent certain strategies from working for everyone. Union Community Care is the new name resulting from the merger of Lancaster Health and Welsh Mountain Health centers.

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As a requirement for its federally qualified status, no one can be turned away, and thus the organization does not require evidence for immigration status, residency, work, insurance, nor other information that would be a barrier for vaccination, benefitting vulnerable groups. As examples of specific efforts, Jones cited vaccination events in Lebanon City and a partnership with the Department of Aging that resulted in over a hundred of vaccinated seniors.

Additionally, Union was recently informed that they had been selected for direct federal distribution of the vaccine, starting the first week of April. This will increase the number of vaccines beyond what is currently available through the Commonwealth.

With many more efforts and strategies to follow, Jones recognizes the community’s strength and resiliency, and encourages people to stay updated with information regarding the vaccine and getting it as soon as it is available for them. “In the meantime, continue to practice appropriate social distancing and masking and follow the advice of your healthcare provider. We will come through this. And we will come through together.”

Union’s vaccine hotline, which still references LHC and WMHC to avoid confusion, can be reached at 717-942-8114, or visit the website.

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