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'Good old-fashioned community organizing' needed to get more vaccinated, activist says

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center

Albany has located a mass vaccination site at the Niagara Falls Conference Center in downtown. It is staffed by Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and 100 temporary workers.

Mayor Robert Restaino has expressed some doubts about the site, because it's far away from some of the poorest residents and difficult to access by public transit. Niagara University’s Rolanda Ward agreed, saying there may be better ways to persuade people to get shots.

Ward is director of NU’s Rose Bente Lee Ostapenko Center for Race, Equity & Mission said the head of the Niagara Falls Health Equity Task Force. She said a lot more outreach would get more interest in vaccinations and more needles in arms.

"Not just people coming to it, traveling to it," Ward said. "We deliver newspapers to people’s houses every day. Don’t we do that? That’s not complex. So we know that we’re capable of getting to a lot of people. It’s just a matter of, are we thinking that’s a strategy we need to use in order to reach the most vulnerable."

Ward argues for more one-on-one education about the benefits of the various vaccinations, because talking with people about the need and safety is better than talking at them.

"We need primary care physicians, we need additional pharmacies, the big-box pharmacies to say yes to being mass vaccinators," she said. "Just like the big pharmacies were responsible for inoculating the senior citizens. We need for them to now go mobile."

She said not only is there a shortage of vaccine, but a shortage of vaccinators.

"We don’t have the medical providers in the system. We can’t vaccinate more people if we don’t do on-the-ground, door-to-door knocking to educate people about this vaccine in order for them to feel safe about it. And we can’t vaccinate people who are homebound if we don’t go and knock on the doors and ask them about this vaccine," she said. "So a lot of stuff has to happen. It’s good old-fashioned community organizing."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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