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City Gets Vaccine Site to Focus on Underserved Residents

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

A vaccine site in the city will help make sure COVID-19 vaccine is distributed equitably. File photo

A site to provide COVID-19 vaccine for Rochester residents who might otherwise be shut out of an appointment or have an incredibly difficult time getting access is scheduled to open in early March.

The details – whether people will be contacted or whether they will have a special way of signing up – are being finalized.

But the site, 1345 St. Paul St. at the site of a former Kodak parking lot, is dedicated to residents who live in city neighborhoods where there are high rates of COVID-19 and who have not been effectively served to this point.

The site was selected in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is one of six in the state that will try to make good on the promise to distribute vaccine equitably and fairly.

Initially, appointments at the Rochester site, as with the ones in Buffalo, Albany, Yonkers, Queens and Brooklyn, will be reserved for people living in those communities.

“We know that lack of transportation is a real barrier for folks who don’t have a car,” said Wade Norwood, chief executive officer of Common Ground Health and co-chair of the Finger Lakes “Vaccine Task Force. “This site is much closer to home for residents of some of Rochester’s most distressed neighborhoods. It is also accessible by bus and for some by foot.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said the site, announced Feb. 17, was welcome progress. “As the community knows, my mother passed from COVID-19 after contracting the virus in the hospital while being treated for a heart condition. Her passing in this manner still bothers me and my family, and fuels my desire to make sure that everyone that wants access to the vaccine has a fair and equal opportunity to do so,” she wrote in a statement.

Demand for vaccine far outpaces supply, making it difficult for people without computer access, savvy or the time to navigate websites or spend hours on the phone to make an appointment.

“We have received hundreds of calls from seniors who are terrified because they don’t know how, or can’t make, an appointment to get the vaccine,” Warren wrote in the statement. “We can and must act to help them.”

She said that distributing the vaccine in minority communities has to be a priority and that recently released state data show Black and Latino residents lag in receiving at least one dose.

The state started posting demographic data Feb. 16. But racial and ethnic data is posted by region and not by county. The vaccination rate among minorities is posted as a percentage of total population and not as a percentage of people within the group. So it’s difficult to get a complete picture.

Nevertheless in data as of Feb. 18, African Americans were 4.7% of people in the Finger Lakes region who received at least one dose. African Americans accounted for 8.6% of those eligible.

Hispanics or Latinos made up 2.8% percent of people in the Finger Lakes who had received at least one dose and were 3.5% of those eligible.

As for Monroe County, 95,622 residents, or 12.9% of the population, had at least one dose as of Feb. 18. But there was no racial or ethnic breakdown.

“With this new vaccine site, those who have been hardest hit by COVID-19, who have been pushed to the front lines of this terrible pandemic and at the back of the line for vaccination opportunity, will finally be first in line,” Norwood said.