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Cayuga Health System accelerates vaccine access in the community

An essential component of successful and proactive COVID-19 management is facilitating community vaccination and bringing immunity to clustered populations. To accelerate vaccine uptake, Cayuga Health System developed a COVID-19 vaccination partnership with the Tompkins County Health Department during which the health system administered more than 50,000 vaccine doses in four months.

In early January, Cayuga Health and the Tompkins County Health Department opened a 50,000-square-foot vaccination center at a local shopping mall that could administer 200 doses an hour. The vaccination program built on the successful COVID-19 testing effort that Cayuga Health and the health department launched in March 2020, just days after the community recorded its first coronavirus infection. That joint effort expanded to three testing sites in Tompkins County, and more than one million COVID-19 tests for county residents were completed in its first year of operation.

Volunteers also played a key role in both the testing and vaccination initiatives. Doctors, nurses and community members, with and without medical training, donated their time and expertise to bolster the program.

With its broad base of support, the vaccination initiative moved beyond being a Cayuga Health or a Tompkins County operation and became the community’s vaccination program. To reach the community’s diverse residents, volunteers who spoke several languages helped produce videos and flyers to provide vaccination information to non-English-speaking residents. Mobile and pop-up vaccination efforts brought COVID-19 vaccinations to vulnerable or underserved populations in Tompkins County.

By the end of April, nearly 60% of Tompkins County residents had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the highest rate of any county in the Southern Tier region.

For more information, contact John Turner, vice president, public relations, at jturner@cayugamed.org or (607) 274-4499.