Patient Care

Expanding Access to COVID Vaccination in Vulnerable Communities

Apr. 8, 2021

URMC is involved in several new initiatives to improve access and equity in COVID vaccine distribution in underserved portions of the City of Rochester and the Finger Lakes region. These programs – which build upon previous vaccine equity efforts undertaken by URMC – will involve establishing temporary vaccination clinics in collaboration with community organizations and primary care practices that serve Black, Latino and other vulnerable populations.  

“Input from the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force makes clear that people are more inclined to accept vaccination when it’s available in a location they know and trust,” said Strong Memorial Hospital COO Kathy Parrinello. “Along with supporting new locations identified by Monroe County and the City of Rochester, URMC plans to provide vaccinations in all our Primary Care clinics that serve vulnerable populations to further support equity and accessibility of vaccines across the community.”

Last week, Monroe County and the City of Rochester announced the creation of COVID-19 vaccination PODs in four neighborhood quadrants in the City of Rochester. The initiative is a partnership with faith-based organizations, health care providers, United Way of Greater Rochester, Ibero American Action League, Lifespan, Person Centered Housing Strategies, Refugees Helping Refugees and the Community Health Worker Association. These clinics – which start on April 9 – will target ZIP codes in the city with low vaccination rates and higher rates of social vulnerability. A team of URMC vaccinators, nurses, pharmacists, and support staff will operate clinics located at Baber AME, Memorial AME Zion and Greater Harvest Baptist Church, and vaccinate 325 people per day in each location. 

URMC is also working in coordination with the Task Force to set up pop-up clinics under New York State’s Vaccine Equity program, which dedicates a portion of the state’s vaccine supply to reducing barriers to vaccination and ensuring an equitable distribution. 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, Medical Center staff will support a pop-up clinic that serves Rochester’s deaf and hard-of-hearing community. To date, 11 UR Medicine primary care practices have volunteered to provide staff for weekend pop-up vaccination clinics.   

URMC’s Primary Care Network is preparing to deploy a mobile team that will vaccinate patients at primary care practices that serve vulnerable populations. These practices are identified as “safety net,” based on the high percentage of Medicaid/Medicare patients they serve. The new sites will supplement vaccine clinics at Manhattan Square Family Medicine and the Saunders Research Building, which have been operating since January. By directly scheduling vaccinations at provider offices, the effort seeks to improve accessibility and help overcome barriers, such as transportation and uncertainty about the experience. East Ridge Family Medicine, Culver Medical Group, Medicine in Psychiatry Service (MIPS), Highland’s Geriatrics and Medicine Associates (GAMA), and Strong Internal Medicine will participate in the two-week pilot project, after which the program plans to expand to rural practices in Hornell, Perry, Andover and Marion.