Steuben County leaders bring pop-up COVID-19 vaccine site to help communities of color

Corning Bureau

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CORNING, N.Y. (WETM) – Community leaders in Steuben County have brought a pop-up vaccination site Corning in order to assist communities of color receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The site, which required pre-registration and is now full, will be held at the Friendship Baptist Church.

“This is just the first crack at it,” said Steuben County Manager Jack Wheeler. “The hope is that this could build some momentum and that we are able to have additional pop-ups here in the near future.”

Wheeler says that once the county has more options for people to get the vaccine they will put out a public scheduler.

“We want to get every dose that we have in the arms as quickly as possible and that has been our mantra and what we’ve done, but we only receive so much from New York State and it is a very small supply of doses at the moment.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo created the pop-up sites to operate as a short-term vaccine location targeted as helping communities of color receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Despite these efforts, a disparity in who is receiving the vaccine has been seen across the United States.

Wheeler says he believes there is a disparity in the local community regarding who is receiving the doses, but because not everyone is filling out their ethnicity/race on the sign-up form, the county is not certain what percentage of each community has been vaccinated.

There have also been residents of Steuben County who have opted to travel outside of the county to state-run sites, including those in Johnson City and Rochester.

Wheeler says the county is in active conversations with the state to add a state-run site in Steuben County in order to vaccinate more residents in a “more efficient way.”

Georgia Verdier, the President of the Elmira/Corning branch of the NAACP, is also a member of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 team and is focused on “messaging and pop-up pods designed to ensure that marginalized communities are effectively served.”

Verdier has been working as part of a “collaborative effort with Friendship Baptist Church, the NAACP, Corning Incorporated, Steuben County Public Health Department, and New York State” to get a pop-up location at the church. After submitting an application, showing the site to the state, and working with law enforcement for policing and parking they received approval on Sunday night.

Verdier described the effort as “labor-intensive” not only to get the pop-up pod approved but to get members of the community to attend.

“We’re answering a lot of questions for people who are reluctant and apprehensive… we wanted to validate their fears and their resistance and their apprehension because some of them are real. They look at history. We didn’t try to persuade them or say ‘you must do this.’ We tried to walk them through what we’re dealing with, what we’re seeing, and have them weigh the differences.”

Organizers helped register those who agreed to be vaccinated and set up appointments for the pop-up site. “It’s been labor-intensive but it’s worth it.”

Verdier says having the vaccine in a familiar place, such as a church, gives even people who are a bit skeptical “comfortability and trust and familiarity.”

“When you’re making a pie you need all the key ingredients of how to have a good pie, and all those ingredients are necessary because some people are fearful. They think about what has happened historically and different things that have occurred and they just didn’t want to take a chance on getting this vaccine that is kinda new to everybody.”

On Thursday night local doctors will meet virtually with community members to discuss the vaccine and ensure it’s success and safety.

Verdier is hopeful that the state grants approval for a future pop-up location to give them a “broader range” in who they can vaccinate. They’re also focusing on reaching people in more rural areas who don’t have the necessary information or technology to receive the vaccine.

“We’re looking forward to the time where we’ll have a sense of normalcy, and the more needles we can get in arms the better we’re going to be.”

Those who have been pre-registered for the event will be able to park on either side of the street at the clinic or in the library parking lot. Organizers worked with local police to ensure parking and safety during the event.

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