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Low vaccination rate ‘hotspots’ will be targeted
Congressman Brian Higgins on Thursday announced Catholic Health has been awarded $880,000 in American Rescue Plan Funding to address COVID-19 vaccine disparities in Niagara County, particularly in Niagara Falls, where lack of access to vaccine resources and widespread vaccine hesitancy are preventing the community from reaching optimal vaccination rates.
Catholic Health and its Niagara County-based Mount St. Mary’s Hospital – in collaboration with project partners Niagara University, Northpointe Council Inc. and Pinnacle Community Services – will identify “hotspots” in Niagara County where residents have the greatest need for education and outreach pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine. The program will focus on medically underserved populations in the City of Niagara Falls.
“Vaccine hesitancy is a very real challenge in Western New York,” Higgins said. “With this American Rescue Plan funding, Catholic Health and project partners can build relationships within hard-to-reach communities to calm fears or answer questions associated with the COVID-19 vaccine, and then follow up with access to resources. The vaccine is our best defense against this horrible disease. This collaborative initiative will support community outreach relaying the importance and effectiveness of the vaccine.”
Catholic Health President and CEO Mark A. Sullivan said, “We are incredibly grateful to Congressman Brian Higgins, who always represents our local voice in western Niagara County and has successfully advocated the Biden-Harris administration to provide funding from its Rescue Plan. This funding will allow us to continue and expand our health and safety outreach programs in vulnerable areas of Niagara County. We are also honored to be collaborating with like-minded organizations that have strong community ties. They will be vital partners in the rollout of this effort to provide education, resources and, ultimately, vaccinations.”
Community outreach workers will be hired and trained to increase the understanding of COVID-19 prevention in targeted communities, increase the number of residents in Niagara Falls and surrounding communities willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, and link residents to community resources, including transportation if needed, to access vaccine distribution points.
Dr. Rolanda Ward, director of the Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity & Mission, associate professor of social work at NU, and Catholic Health board of directors member, said, “The work of community partners is essential to keeping Niagara County residents safe during this ongoing pandemic. Catholic Health, Pinnacle, Northpointe, as well as the members of the Niagara Falls Health Equity Task Force, are committed to building a strong culture of health in every neighborhood across the entire county.”
According to the New York State Immunization Information System (NYSIIS), 58% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated and 65% have at least one dose. In the City of Niagara Falls, there are several ZIP codes, including 14301, 14303 and 14305, where under 50% of the population has at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – and even less are fully vaccinated.
The Biden-Harris administration recently allocated $121 million, authorized by Congress through the American Rescue Plan, supporting the work of trusted community-based efforts to increase vaccinations in underserved communities. Recipients across the nation, including Catholic Health, will engage with regional and local partners to reach underserved and high-risk communities.
To find and schedule COVID-19 vaccinations in Niagara County, visit www.vaccines.gov.