PITTSBURGH – The Richard King Mellon Foundation has awarded a third round of COVID grants totaling nearly $8.5 million. The foundation’s final COVID grant of the year was $250,000 to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to acquire the cold-storage systems required to distribute and administer the vaccine.
Total grants by the Foundation to fight COVID and its impacts in 2020 total more than $33 million – an amount equivalent to more than 25% of the Foundation’s annual giving.
“COVID required all of us to adapt and change carefully made plans,” said Foundation Director Sam Reiman. “The goal of the Foundation and its Board has been to jump into this effort meaningfully – and to see it through. These grants are the latest installments in that ongoing commitment.”
The final batch of COVID grants includes $1.5 million to aid food banks in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties; and $1.5 million for the beleaguered Downtown Pittsburgh restaurant industry, including a novel initiative to pay restaurants and their employees to prepare food for those who have been forced into food insecurity by the pandemic.
“But it is fitting,” said Reiman, “that our final grant of 2020 was for vaccine distribution. Much of our funding has been focused on fueling the 2021 recovery – and ubiquitous distribution of the vaccine is the singular key to that recovery.”
UPMC Children’s Hospital is one of the first sites in the U.S. to administer the vaccine. Front line healthcare workers first received the vaccine Monday. The $250,000 grant will go toward six ultra-cold storage units (the vaccine must be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius); a refrigeration trailer to transport vaccines; and a software system to track the deployment of the vaccine and its outcomes.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Richard King Mellon Foundation for supporting our efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to our healthcare workers, residents of skilled nursing facilities, and the patients and families we serve,” said Dr. Terence Dermody, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and physician-in-chief and scientific director at UPMC Children’s Hospital. “The freezers and transport trailer will make certain that the vaccines are kept at the proper temperature prior to administration – and the software system will allow us to track our progress to ensure that all vaccine doses are given.”
Health innovations such as the UPMC grant have been one of Foundation’s primary COVID focuses, along with economic recovery and aiding struggling nonprofits.
Other Health Innovation grants funded by the Foundation in 2020 include:
- $250,000 in June for vaccine trials with UPMC, including the trial last summer that helped demonstrate the safety of the Moderna vaccine.
- $250,000 in October to Carnegie-Mellon University, for a collaborative initiative with the University of Pittsburgh to develop “microneedle” patches – a potentially pain-free way to administer the vaccine.
- $117,000 to the University of Pittsburgh in October to develop strategies to overcome social-media misinformation that may dissuade Americans from getting the vaccine – particularly, Black and other minority communities that have been particularly hard-hit by the virus.
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About the Richard King Mellon Foundation
Founded in 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation is the largest foundation in southwestern Pennsylvania, and one of the 50 largest in the world. The Foundation’s 2019 endowment was $2.7 billion and its Trustees in 2019 awarded 172 grants totaling $129 million, focused on the Foundation’s strategic priorities: economic development, education, and human services in Southwestern Pennsylvania, and environmental conservation across the United States.