MDHHS partners with community testing sites to increase COVID-19 vaccine access to marginalized communities


Patrick Jones


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is partnering with 22 community testing sites and clinics to offer COVID-19 vaccines to minority and marginalized populations. This partnership is in response to continued racial barriers to testing and vaccines statewide.   


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Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS, said African-Americans encompass 14% of the population in Michigan, but represented 28% of early cases in the pandemic’s beginning. She said Michigan was one of the first states to use COVID case and death data on race to fix their COVID disparities. 

“It’s not just about reporting data, it is also really important that you do something about the data that you are seeing.”

This collaboration will provide financial support for community leaders and health care workers to supply vaccines and information to their communities. MDHHS will give these local sites $5,000 a month — all of which is from federal funding — for operation and needed infrastructure around giving more tests and vaccines. She said MDHHS spent about $12 million solely for this project. 

Khaldun said this collaboration will help more marginalized and minority groups get vaccinated. When the vaccine and testing is within neighborhoods and run by trusted community leaders and health care workers that are representative of the community, people are much more likely to engage, she said. 

“It’s really important [because we are] not having to make someone go outside of their neighborhood to get a test or vaccine, and also when it is in your neighborhood and in a place that you may regularly go to anyway for community-based or faith-based services. When it is right there, you are more likely to want to actually engage in that service.”

Khaldun emphasized the importance of meeting marginalized communities where they are and providing information on vaccines from trusted community members. Outreach to educate on vaccine information comes from faith institutions to door-to-door campaigning. 

These efforts in community outreach are championed by the Protect Michigan Commission, a diverse group of health care leaders in Michigan aiming to inform all Michiganders of the most up-to-date news on the COVID vaccine. The commission is co-chaired by leaders like Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, Former Lt. Gov. Brian N. Calley, president of the Michigan Nurses Association Jamie Brown, and Khaldun herself.