Published March 3, 2021
As supplies of COVID-19 vaccines increase, UB is playing an important role in a New York State initiative whose aim is to safely, efficiently and equitably vaccinate Western New Yorkers against the COVID-19 virus.
Vaccination is seen as an effective way to significantly reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, which has been responsible for more than 500,000 deaths in the United States in the past year.
But widespread vaccination has proven to be exceedingly difficult in communities across the United States due to short supplies of the vaccine and the difficulty of coordinating distribution to large populations. In addition, many people in underserved communities are reluctant to be vaccinated.
The initiative, called Vaccinate Western New York (VAXWNY), is one of 10 vaccination hubs across the state established by the state Department of Health for the purpose of distributing the vaccines as the supply of doses increases in the coming weeks.
The Western New York HUB is being overseen by the state’s Vaccine Central Command Center and is being led by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul; Michael E. Cain, vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB; Mark Sullivan, president and CEO of Catholic Health; and Tom Quatroche, president and CEO of Erie County Medical Center.
VAXWNY also includes more than 530 health care providers who have registered to help vaccinate residents throughout Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties.
As a HUB, the Western New York leadership group has primary responsibility in its five-county region for identifying regional partners, working with local health departments, overseeing communication and educating the community about the COVID-19 vaccines.
Nancy H. Nielsen, senior associate dean for health policy in the Jacobs School, is leading the Western New York HUB’s Planning group. She meets daily with county health department leaders throughout the region to understand their needs and see that they are met.
Also participating in efforts to maximize vaccinations is the WNY Hub’s Health Equity Task Force. The group has more than three dozen members, including medical professionals, health care organizations, faith-based clergy, community groups and community members. Task force members are ideally positioned to implement plans to ensure that people in their counties receive the vaccine, including those who are vulnerable and the underserved.
Activities in the Health Equity Task Force are coordinated by Timothy Murphy, director of UB’s Community Health Equity Research Institute and SUNY Distinguished Professor in the Jacobs School, and Quatroche.
Natalie Simpson, associate professor and chair of operations management and strategy in the School of Management, is leading the WNY HUB’s Information Management group, which is creating a system by which the hub can compile and access key data regarding regional demographics to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine throughout the region.
Beth Del Genio, chief of staff in the Office of the President, is ensuring that UB expertise can be marshalled to support the vaccination effort, and is playing a key planning role.
John DellaContrada, vice president for university communications, is assisting the WNY HUB, which includes communication leaders at Catholic Health, ECMC, and in Hochul’s office who are leading public communication efforts about the initiative and the importance of vaccination.
For more information on VAXWNY or obtaining a vaccine, visit the VAXWNY website.