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URMC expands COVID-19 vaccine access in vulnerable communities

Equitable distribution and access to the COVID-19 vaccine is essential to ensuring successful immunization across New York state. Targeting vulnerable communities in particular will be key to improving population health and addressing potential gaps in care. University of Rochester Medical Center is involved in several new initiatives to improve access and equity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution in underserved portions of Rochester and the Finger Lakes region. 

Input from the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force emphasized that people are more inclined to accept vaccination when it’s available in a location they know and trust. Given this, URMC will establish temporary vaccination clinics operated by a team of URMC vaccinators, nurses, pharmacists and support staff. The initiative is a partnership between the county, city, faith-based organizations, healthcare providers and community organizations such as the United Way of Greater Rochester, Ibero American Action League, Lifespan, Person Centered Housing Strategies, Refugees Helping Refugees and Community Health Worker Association. These clinics will target ZIP Codes in the city with low vaccination rates and higher rates of social vulnerability.

URMC is also working in coordination with the Task Force to open pop-up clinics under New York state’s Vaccine Equity program, which focuses on reducing barriers to vaccination and ensuring an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine. Highland Family Medicine recently completed a pop-up vaccine clinic for the refugee community in collaboration with Barakah Muslim Charity in Rochester. In the coming weeks, the Medical Center staff will support a pop-up clinic that serves Rochester’s deaf and hard-of-hearing community. 

Additionally, URMC’s primary care network is preparing to deploy a mobile team that will vaccinate patients at primary care practices serving vulnerable populations. These practices are often identified as “safety net” based on the high percentage of Medicaid/Medicare patients they serve. By directly scheduling vaccinations at provider offices, the effort will seek to improve accessibility and help overcome barriers, such as transportation and vaccine hesitation.

For more information, contact Wendy Parisi, program director, at (585) 275-0930 or wendy_parisi@urmc.rochester.edu.