For Immediate Release: Feb. 18, 2021

Media Contacts: Kathy Fackelmann,, 202-994-8354

Community Health Centers Move to the COVID-19 Immunization Frontline

WASHINGTON, DC and NEW YORK, NY (Feb. 18, 2021) – A new analysis from the Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative provides current information on the number of community health center staff members and patients who have received COVID-19 vaccines, using data from the latest published Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Center COVID-19 Survey. The Geiger Gibson/RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative is based at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health (GW Milken Institute SPH).

Community health centers’ role in COVID-19 immunization is expected to significantly increase under a new White House Health Center Program COVID-19 Vaccination plan, announced February 9th, to speed up immunizations in the most severely underserved communities. The first participating community health centers, also known as Federally Qualified Health Centers, will begin receiving vaccines through this program the week of February 15th. The program is expected to ramp up as part of the Biden administration’s broader national effort to ensure equitable access to immunization while also empowering trusted, community-based health care providers with a strong track record of immunizing patients at serious risk for health disparities. While the effort will be phased in, the program ultimately could enable 1,385 community health centers, operating in nearly 13,000 locations, to reach some 30 million patients who are disproportionately members of racial and ethnic minority groups.

Using five weeks of federally reported data, this analysis reports the number of health center staff members and patients who had received their first or second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine from any source. From the week ending January 8th through the week ending February 5th, 147,109 staff members initiated immunizations while 92,801 completed their COVID-19 vaccine series, the latter accounting for more than 1 in 3 (37%) health center staff. The data also show that over this same time period, 655,098 patients received their first dose and 93,624, their second dose, indicating that 0.3 percent of all health center patients had completed the immunization series as of February 5th, and underscoring the vital importance of a rapid ramp-up of this initiative.

“Our nation’s health centers serve those communities most likely to have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly half of all health center patients estimated to be high-priority for COVID-19 vaccination because of age or health risks” said Feygele Jacobs, DrPH, President and CEO of the RCHN Community Health Foundation, whose ongoing gift supports the Geiger Gibson Program. “With their strong track record for quality and deep, trusted community engagement, they’re positioned to get vaccines where they’re needed most.”

Sara Rosenbaum, JD, one of the study coauthors added, “The importance of this effort cannot be stressed too much, especially given the critical vaccine shortages that states are experiencing. The strategy of directly shipping vaccines to known and trusted providers in the communities where they are needed the most provides enormous added value.” Rosenbaum is the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy at the GW Milken Institute SPH.

The analysis, “Community Health Centers Move to Frontline Providers of COVID-19 Immunization Services Under President Biden’s Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program” can be accessed here.


The Geiger Gibson Program in Community Health Policy, established in 2003 and named after human rights and health center pioneers Drs. H. Jack Geiger and Count Gibson, is part of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University.

The RCHN Community Health Foundation is the only foundation in the U.S. dedicated solely to community health centers. The Foundation’s gift to the Geiger Gibson program supports health center research and scholarship.

The Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University is the only school of public health in the nation’s capital.