Rochester’s COVID vaccine rates put low-income people of color at risk

As more vaccine-resistant strains of COVID-19 are identified in the country, vaccination centers in Rochester are still struggling to reach certain areas of the city.

Postal codes – including 14613, 14611 and 14605 – are equal to or less than a 50% vaccination rate for the first dose in Monroe County, according to the Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub Tracker. State health officials are concerned about these low vaccination rates as new variants of COVID-19 emerge and spread.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the delta strain is currently the main circulating strain in the United States. The strain was first identified earlier this year in the UK before a spike in travel spread it to the US

The CDC updated the recommended mask guidelines last week after identifying a series of breakthrough infections caused by the delta variant. The organization now recommends that vaccinated people wear masks indoors and in crowded areas.

Manly Miley listens to vaccine information before receiving her Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Jones Square Park.

People who have been vaccinated test positive for the virus and can pass it on to others, but unvaccinated people are still most at risk. Vaccinated people who receive COVID-19 have limited symptoms and generally do not require hospitalization.

Dr Ed Walsh of Rochester Regional Health said unvaccinated communities are at extremely high risk of exposure. Walsh said the high overall averages reported statewide do not reflect the dangerously low rates seen in some zip codes when the data is further broken down.

“The largest unvaccinated population is made up of young children,” Walsh said. “They can then pass the virus on to adults and the elderly, who are very vulnerable and can have the most severe symptoms. “

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Federal regulators have still not approved the vaccine for children under 12. Young children make up over 23% of the population in zip code 14605.

Manly Miley listens to vaccine information before receiving her Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Jones Square Park.

End of July :

  • Zip code 14621 has just over half of its population vaccinated with a first dose at an immunization rate of 50.9%.
  • Neighboring zip codes 14613 and 14605 have even lower rates at 45.2% and 49.7% respectively.
  • Postal code 14617 has a rate of over 80% for the first dose although it is located next to other neighborhoods.

The reason for the low rates differs from community to community.

Postal code 14614 currently ranks at the lowest rate in Monroe County, with just 29% of people receiving a first dose of the vaccine. The population in this zip code includes local county jail inmates.

The differences between postal codes can be attributed to a combination of accessibility, trust and historical barriers, said experts who spoke with the Democrat and Chronicle.

“People can be wary of large local hospitals, such as the university,” said Maria Addisu. Addisu volunteers in the vaccine distribution program at the Trenton and Pamela Recreation Center.

Overcome obstacles to immunize more people at risk

Community organizations have created their own programs to prioritize underserved neighborhoods.

The Ibero American Action League, which focuses on advocating for Latin American communities across New York state, regularly hosts vaccination pop-ups in its Rochester office.

“It’s important to meet people where they are,” said Julio Saenz, Ibero League communications manager in Rochester. “You can’t just write off people if they are reluctant to get the vaccine.”

The league also holds weekly vaccine briefings and COVID-related news in English and Spanish via the Poder 97.1 FM radio station. Saenz stressed the need to provide resources and housing in order to increase immunization rates.

“If you go to bigger sites and clinics, the information is all in English, which not everyone can understand. Other times the sites are far away and people don’t have transportation. “Saenz said.

Another reason is the timing and location. State and local vaccination centers offer various appointments and opening hours. Volunteers said the existing hours are not enough to be accessible to people who work or have other responsibilities.

Manly Miley receives her Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a mobile site in Jones Square Park.

Other residents, mostly older people, may have difficulty getting to distribution centers due to a lack of transportation.

National and local health administrations have taken steps to tackle neighborhoods with the lowest vaccination rates.

In December, professors at the Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College established a community education program, ROC Community Immunity. The program aimed to increase awareness of vaccine development and address residents’ questions and concerns.

The city of Rochester government has established vaccination centers and schedules for residents of specific zip codes. The city continues to host pop-up vaccine locations across Rochester, often offering monetary incentives such as free gift cards and raffles. The Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub runs a home vaccination program for those who cannot travel to other places.

Dr Alice Loveys is overseeing the vaccination program.

“Inclusiveness is extremely important, especially with a virus as transmissible as COVID-19,” Loveys said. “The Finger Lakes task force has made reaching homebound populations a priority. “

Anyone in need of a vaccine who is housebound can schedule a referral by calling the Monroe County COVID-19 hotline or visiting the Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub website. The organization is maintained by medical staff at the University of Rochester.

Rochester resident receives Johnson and Johnson vaccine at a mobile site in Jones Square Park.

Low-income residents of color affected

According to data from the Finger Lakes Vaccine Tracker, every neighborhood with low immunization rates is low income and mostly made up of people of color. Both groups have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to historic and current barriers to healthcare.

Vaccines aren’t the only part of the pandemic to be prone to such disparities. Marginalized communities are also more likely to be exposed to COVID-19.

Residents who have public jobs and cannot work from home, such as retail or service workers, have the least protection without access to immunization.

Map data from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition shows that people living in Rochester’s red light districts are more likely to experience more serious side effects from COVID-19.

NCRC maps compare the city’s original planning to modern statistics of social vulnerability. Neighborhoods labeled as “undesirable” and “in decline” in the 1930s remain isolated from health facilities.

Residents of these areas are more likely to have a lower life expectancy and chronic illnesses, such as mental illness and obesity.

By comparison, postal codes with an immunization rate of over 75% have a predominantly white and affluent population and do not experience the same widespread health problems.

“The key to transmitting the risks (of COVID-19) and the importance of the vaccine is where that information comes from. If your sources are not trustworthy in communities that have historically been overlooked, this communication is much more difficult to achieve. , Saenz said.

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