UR Medicine launched its first COVID-19 vaccine center for patients today at Manhattan Square Family Medicine, the first step in a months-long campaign to vaccinate patients across the Finger Lakes region and Southern Tier.
Since December, the UR Medicine system has provided more than 26,000 vaccinations to employees and other health-care workers. This week, as patients age 65 and older became eligible under New York State guidelines, the system began expanding vaccination to patients in Rochester and across the region.
Limited supply remains a challenge in distributing COVID-19 vaccine widely. New York state estimates there are 7 million people eligible under the current guidelines, but only 300,000 doses arriving each week statewide.
From its electronic medical records system, UR Medicine has identified patients 65 and older and emailed more than 65,000 of them to explain how the process will work: Using a randomized process, the health system matches patients to vaccine as quickly as supplies become available, then contacts them to schedule a vaccination. The first group of patients arrived at Manhattan Square Family Medicine at noon.
A second vaccination center for patients opens on the URMC campus Monday, in the Saunders building at 265 Crittenden Boulevard. Plans are under way to set up more large-scale vaccination centers throughout the region in the weeks ahead.
“After 10 months of battling this pandemic, it is extremely gratifying to begin offering patients protection from COVID-19,” said Kathleen Parrinello, RN, PhD, Chief Operating Officer of Strong Memorial Hospital. “As more patients become eligible under New York State guidelines, our goal is to vaccinate as many patients as the supply of vaccine allows in an equitable and efficient process.”
John Clark, Regional Administrative Director of the Primary Care Network, is coordinating the complex logistics of COVID-19 vaccination delivery for patients.
“Our network serves more than 300,000 patients across the region, and we deliver thousands of vaccinations for flu and other illnesses each year. Our experience in vaccinating large numbers of patients is an asset in rapidly deploying this COVID-19 vaccination campaign,” Clark said. “We’re moving quickly to offer vaccination at existing practices, like Manhattan Square Family Medicine, and set up large centers at sites where we will be able to vaccinate hundreds of people in a few hours’ time.”
UR Medicine will identify sites that offer patients close, convenient access – including public transportation – as well as provide adequate facilities and space to support social distancing.
While supplies of vaccine remain limited, UR Medicine will exclusively use dedicated vaccine centers rather than offer COVID-19 vaccination through its primary care practices.
“We ask patients not to contact their primary care office to inquire about getting COVID-19 vaccination. Practices are not able to schedule or expedite vaccination for patients,” Clark said. “Patients will be contacted when we can schedule them for vaccination at one of our centers.”
Parrinello added that being vaccinated protects people who are exposed to COVID-19 from becoming seriously ill, but will not prevent spread of the virus until the region achieves “herd immunity” by vaccinating a large majority of residents.
“Until we can offer community-wide protection, all people – including those who have been vaccinated -- need to continue social distancing, masking, and good hand hygiene,” Parrinello said. “Those steps remain essential to help our community flatten the curve and prevent new cases of this serious, potentially fatal illness.”
More vaccination centers will open in the coming weeks; UR Medicine will announce details as they open.