Eye on WNY: Community Initiative Aims to Increase Vaccination Rates

people outside.

Photo courtesy of Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo.

Published October 12, 2021


The Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo (CHWNB), in collaboration with the Erie County Department of Health and the Buffalo Public Schools, is working with local community health workers to increase the vaccination rates of Western New York residents by meeting them where they are and addressing concerns, fears, and barriers. Starting in late-August, this effort has focused on areas with low rates of vaccination. In addition, the initiative addresses other social determinants affecting each neighborhood, such as housing and food access.

Community health workers and partner organizations organize community and culturally specific wellness events with vaccine clinics. In advance of these events, they conduct outreach in surrounding neighborhoods to invite families and residents to attend. These efforts include canvassing and knocking on doors, going into schools to talk with students and with parents as they wait in line to pick their children up, and having one-on-one and small group conversations to answer questions and address concerns. At the events, community members are not required to take the vaccine in order to benefit from additional services.  

Stephanie Wong-You, the manager of operations and community outreach at CoNECT, the organization that houses the Community Health Worker Network, says all hands are on deck in support of the initiative, which is bringing together government, community, academic, and other institutional partners.   

“I am incredibly humbled and excited about all of the people who are a part of this coalition,” Wong-You says. “They represent so many different sectors who are working to understand the barriers in supporting community health.”  

Wong-You explains that some members of the community came across misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, particularly related to side effects and cost. CHWNB has worked with partners to provide health information to address common misinformation about the different kinds of vaccines, vaccine efficacy, and variant severity in multiple languages to address language barriers.  

When informing people about the vaccine, Wong-You says trustworthiness has been key. She points to a recent success in getting 24 individuals vaccinated in a three-hour clinic as a sign the efforts are working.   

Future plans include using a mobile clinic to address transportation barriers, and helping to spread the word about in-home county “Vax Visits” and accessing trusted community health providers. Follow facebook.com/chwbuffalo or email info@conect-with-us.org for updates and more information.