Photo of young Black man with a blue mask and a maroon Harvard t-shirt holding informational cards to hand out at the Lilac festival.United Way of Greater Rochester announced that it has convened funding partners to provide $1 million to the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccination Program. ESL Federal Credit Union, Wegmans Food Markets, Paychex, Greater Rochester Health Foundation, United Way of Greater Rochester, and Konar Foundation all contributed to the effort, which will continue its critical work to get COVID-19 vaccine information and vaccinations to underserved and hard-to-reach populations throughout the nine-county region.

“The COVID-19 vaccination effort has been a massive undertaking, the largest of our lifetime. It has required incredible coordination, manpower and community support, particularly as we’ve changed our philosophy to a more neighborhood approach of distribution,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello. “Thanks to the financial support of private and non-profit partners, and the leadership of the United of Way of Greater Rochester, we’ll be able to sustain our efforts to ensure everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine is able to get one.”

“We know that the average COVID vaccination rate for our region masks huge disparities. Affluent neighborhoods enjoy rates of 80% and higher, while a dozen low-income ZIP codes, both urban and rural, still have rates at 40% or lower,” said Wade Norwood, CEO of Common Ground Health. “The dollars United Way helped bring together are key to addressing such inequities. This local funding is helping to bring the vaccine to people where they live, work and worship; it’s helping to answer questions and address concerns; and it’s helping build trust with historically excluded and hesitant populations across our region.”

Since March, the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccination Program has enabled equitable distribution of the vaccine throughout high-risk neighborhoods and towns, developed navigation networks across community organizations to support individuals on their vaccination journey, and addressed vaccine hesitancy through targeted outreach and communications. 

“For many of us, it feels like life has returned to normal. But there are still neighborhoods in Monroe County that are not adequately vaccinated, and families are at higher risk of continuing to experience the ill effects of this pandemic,” said Michael Mendoza, M.D., Monroe County Health Commissioner. “It is not over. The funds being announced today will go a long way toward helping us reach deep into these communities to provide information, education and easy access to the vaccines.”

“We mobilized the entire community to provide vaccine where it was needed,” said Dr. Nancy Bennett, Professor of Medicine and Public Health Sciences, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force co-chair. “We could not have accomplished this without the generosity of our funders. The speed with which they responded to the need, and the magnitude of their assistance was incredible – and crucial to our success.”

United Way’s Vaccine Volunteer Force has supported the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccination Program by connecting volunteers with a background in healthcare along with volunteers for general support to vaccination sites across our region. The Vaccine Volunteer Force has 3,000 registered volunteers who have donated more than 4,000 hours at 40 vaccination sites including pediatric offices, mobile pods, neighborhood locations, and Monroe County mass vaccination sites.

“Our collective vaccination efforts have reached a tipping point as we shift to more targeted and resource-intensive outreach. This innovative work requires fast and flexible resources to try new approaches, which are often difficult to accomplish with public resources alone in the race against time,” said Jaime Saunders, President & CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester. “When we requested help, without hesitation our business and philanthropic partners stepped up immediately and collectively committed $1 million to meet this moment on behalf of our region.”


Related coverage:

 - Minority Reporter

Common Ground Health expanding 'ambassador' program to reach hesitant communities - 13 WHAM

COVID-19 vaccine tent set up at Rochester Lilac Festival - Spectrum News

Free admission, parking to Strong Museum for Juneteenth celebration - Rochester First

Visions Barbershop in Rochester's 19th Ward to offer COVID vaccine with haircuts - Democrat and Chronicle

Get a shot and a beer: Pop-up vaccination clinics to open in area breweries - Democrat and Chronicle

 - News 10 NBC