Local effort launched to boost vaccinations in area’s most diverse neighborhoods

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A coalition of community organizations has announced an effort to address Oneida County’s disparity in vaccination rates among people of color, a national challenge even as overall COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to rise.

The Mohawk Valley COVID Community Navigator Program is being implemented by a coalition led by The Center that also includes Hope Chapel AME Zion Church, the Mohawk Valley Frontiers, the Mohawk Valley Latino Association, the NAACP Rome Branch and Utica/Oneida County NAACP. 

“The program’s ‘navigators’ have been recruited by our organizations to reach Utica and Rome’s most diverse neighborhoods to make sure residents, especially those who might be hesitant, have information and equal access to the vaccine,” said Shelly Callahan, executive director of The Center. “Nationally and locally, people of color have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic, so this effort is critical to our community.”

Developed through a workgroup facilitated by the Mohawk Valley Health System and Oneida County, the program is funded by the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties through the Ron and Sheila Cuccaro Family Fund and the Mohawk Valley COVID-19 Response Fund.

In addition to door-to-door efforts, outreach events such as one held Wednesday at Utica’s Oneida Square will provide educational information and giveaway incentives to encourage vaccination participation. 

“We feel strongly that those who have suffered the effects of COVID-19 disproportionately deserve our community’s very best efforts to ensure that they get information and access to the vaccination,” said Ron Cuccaro. “Sheila and I are thrilled that The Center and all of the community partners are engaged in this important work, and it’s great to see the impact we can have when we all work together.”

“Thanks to our donors and all the nonprofit partners who’ve come together to make this happen, we’re reaching those who need our community’s help most,” said Alicia Dicks, president/CEO of the Community Foundation.

“This program will serve as a model for continuing resident engagement in our two counties, so we can reach people with information and assistance on a variety of issues that affect them,” the Community Foundation CEO added.

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