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United Way Blog

For United Way, Vaccines Are Part of Recovery & Rebuilding

Good start, right direction, but more to do.

That’s how United Way leaders see the job ahead when it comes to recovery and rebuilding in the wake of COVID-19.

While the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit raised an unprecedented amount of money last year for COVID-19 relief, the pandemic’s multiple waves around the world remind us that our work is far from over.

The persistence of the pandemic also underscores how critical vaccine adoption is to driving real progress in the fight against the virus. I know that from my own global work in public health work, and as a pediatrician who founded and runs a family health clinic in Ghana. Medical professionals are working hard on the ground to overcome vaccine hesitancy in our communities, including creating social media to encourage vaccine acceptance.

Helping people understand the need to get vaccinated is essential to quickly arriving at our new normal across the globe. That’s why United Way is working with government, business, and nonprofit partners around the world to support vaccinations. In the U.S., United Way is supporting the federal "We Can Do This" public education campaign, which seeks to increase public confidence in and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines while reinforcing basic prevention measures such as mask wearing and social distancing. Just last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci joined First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, at a vaccine event co-hosted by United Way of New York City.  

In India, United Way is solving the problem of access to vaccines by raising money for mobile vaccination vans to help hospitals reach more people in rural and remote areas. United Way is also providing oxygen, medical supplies, and life-saving equipment to hospitals, as well as food, shelter, hygiene kits, and other essentials directly to people in need.

A go-to resource for COVID help in the U.S. and Canada is 211, which connects people to their local resources 24/7 and is supported by United Way across North America. 211 is helping coordinate vaccinations, provide real-time information, and direct people to available services. It's also the critical link in United Way’s efforts to ensure that vulnerable populations who need vaccinations can get to appointments. Coordinated through 211, United Way and Lyft are partnering to provide access to free or discounted rides to COVID vaccination sites in 100 communities across America, part of a program called Ride United.

As one 211 call specialist in Denver said after helping a senior citizen get a free vaccination ride, it feels like it’s “saving the world, one shot at a time.”

A personal touch makes a difference in vaccine support. In Wooster, Ohio, United Way of Wayne and Holmes County has helped more than 3,000 people register for the vaccine. Many of those who call in don’t have internet access or they want to speak with a live person to be sure they’re on the list, local United Way leaders say.

United Way is also galvanizing volunteers around vaccines. In Rochester, New York, United Way of Greater Rochester is mobilizing volunteers to support the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Hub. In the small town of Chehalis, Washington, United Way of Lewis County helped create a volunteer task force to support local drive-through vaccine clinics. Volunteers help with screening, translating, traffic control and more. 

In the months since the vaccines were rolled out, we've seen a significant drop in COVID cases globally, especially in the most life-threatening cases. This has given the impact of United Way's work and volunteers an even greater significance in communities.

Experts say long-term recovery may lag, but the impact on vulnerable communities is likely to be more entrenched and difficult to address. The pandemic exposed systemic racial and ethnic inequities by exacerbating pre-existing challenges faced by the most vulnerable: ethnic and racial minorities, the very young and the aged, and those who were barely scraping by.

The pandemic has highlighted and reinforced the need for us to be connected and care about one another. It has also underscored the tremendous value of United Way’s mission to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities.

United Way has always worked on issues that impact under-served communities and vulnerable populations. As the world approaches a post-pandemic era, United Way will leverage both its global reach and local impact to help reimagine and rebuild the 1,200 communities we serve -- so they can become strong, resilient places where everyone can thrive. Together, we can do this.

Click here to learn more about United Way’s work on COVID-19 so far.