ROCHESTER — With the goal of vaccinating at least 70% of the region’s adult residents, the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force was launched Thursday.

Nearly 60 regional leaders took part in a virtual meeting, pledging equity, transparency and efficiency in immunization efforts. The task force is chaired by Dr. Nancy Bennett, director of the Finger Lakes region COVID-19 Hub at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Wade Norwood, CEO of Rochester-based Common Ground Health.

“I am honored to help lead our region’s efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to each and every member of our community safely, quickly and fairly. The task is huge, but our community has proven time and time again that we can come together for the good of all,” Bennett said in a press release. “The task force will guide us at every step of the process, and ensure that vaccine administration in our region is equitable, transparent, and efficient.”

“We have learned that if we don’t want to leave any populations behind, we have to make sure that historically marginalized groups have a seat at the table where decisions are made,” Norwood added. “Different groups need different approaches, from religious communities both rural and urban to migrant workers in farming communities, to Black folks in city neighborhoods.”

The state identifies the Finger Lakes region as Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates counties. On the task force are the public health directors of Ontario (Mary Beer), Seneca (Vickie Swinehart), Wayne (Diane Devlin) and Yates (Deb Minor) counties.

Other area officials on the task force are Jack Marren, chairman of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors; Mary Zelazny, CEO of Penn Yan-based Finger Lakes Community Health; and Sage Gerling, Geneva city manager.

The advisory group includes representatives from Rochester Regional Health, the University of Rochester Medical Center, city of Rochester and other municipal and county governments, non-profits, residents, business, labor, education and more. The task force will advise the Finger Lakes region hub, the state-designated organization for coordinating the supply, distribution and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines across the region.

It will also oversee strategies and tactics for guaranteeing that every adult in the region has the information and access they need to make an informed choice about vaccination.

“This wide coalition can dedicate the focused effort on COVID-19 vaccination needed to bring the spread of the virus under control in the Finger Lakes,” said Ellie Fralick, a Canandaigua resident on the task force. “COVID infection rates continue to climb in our region and the fallout is costing lives and damaging our economy. For many of our children, the interruption in their education can change their future.”

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