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Vaccine Task Force Focuses on Motivation While Rochester Waits for Supply

Patti Singer

Wade Norwood, CEO of Common Ground Health and part of the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. File photo

At some point, there will be enough vaccine for everyone who wants to be immunized against COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the time is being used to listen to people who are concerned about vaccination and provide them with accurate information so they can make the best decision for themselves and their family.

“Some of what might seem like potential bandwidth has to be spent to deal with the issue of confusing messages and the fact that there’s pent up demand,” said Wade Norwood, chief executive officer of Common Ground Health and part of the leadership of the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force.

“There is a part of the community engagement effort that needs to be devoted to helping to accurately communicate what’s going on and to allow people who are already motivated to remain motivated and not be deflated or made bitter or cynical by the fact that demand is outpacing supply,” Norwood said Jan. 13 at a news conference about vaccine distribution.

New York announced that it would expand eligibility for the vaccine from frontline health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities to teachers, public safety workers, grocery store employees and others. People 65 and older now are eligible.

But being eligible doesn’t mean vaccination on demand. New York state gets a limited number of vaccines — 300,000 was a recent shipment — from the federal government. The state spreads the allotment to various regions.

As of Jan. 13, the county did not have any appointments available. People 75 and older will be contacted by the health system that provides their care. Monroe County posts vaccine updates at

You also can check eligibility at The state’s COVID-19 vaccination hotline is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day at 1-833-697-4829.

In a sense, it doesn’t matter whether you are eligible if there aren’t enough doses. It’s like building an Olympic-size swimming pool but having enough water to get only your feet wet.

But there’s plenty to do while waiting for it to fill.

Norwood said that over the next few weeks, the vaccine task force would be talking with people in Rochester and to identify specific concerns about the vaccine and provide culturally meaningful messages from trusted sources of information.

He said people who’ve already received the vaccine may be asked to share their experiences so that when the vaccine is widely available, people are prepared.

Norwood said learning about the vaccine and believing the science behind the development have convinced him to get immunized. He said he wants others to have the same opportunity he had for education and reflection.

“We will never underestimate the power of old-fashioned word of mouth,” Norwood said. “Our greatest and most trusted tool is the grapevine, and making sure the grapevine is able to reach across the region through a network of trusted partners and individuals that will help us do to this work in the way it really must be done, human neighbor to human neighbor, carried on the wings of trust and moving at the speed of trust.

“In an era characterized unfortunately by divisiveness and misinformation, we are painfully aware of how important it is that we restore trust and remain in relationship with each other,” he said.