ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Local leaders are outlining the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello held a news conference on Tuesday with Monroe County Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Michael Mendoza, Ontario County Public Health Director Mary Beer, and Dr. Nancy Bennett of the Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub, addressing the public about the very latest on the COVID-19 vaccination effort in the Finger Lakes region.

“We understand that it is not going as fast as anyone would like, including myself. But please know that we are chipping away at this and systematically going through the vaccine as it arrives using the recommended guidelines,” said Dr. Mendoza.

“This is the first week that the local health departments, outside of Monroe, is receiving vaccine and we’re actually getting up our PODS, our Point of Dispensing Clinics, and we’re actually delivering that.  We’re also coordinating with the hospitals and finding out what pockets are out there that they haven’t been able to vaccinate and then trying to make plans to outreach to those individuals,” said Beer.

According to County Executive Bello, URMC and Rochester Regional Health have administered around 20,000 doses so far. The Monroe County Department of Public Health has administered around 1,200.

Others in the region, such as nursing home residents and staff members, have also received the first dose of the vaccine, but Bello said those numbers are reported on the federal level.

Bello said vaccine distribution in the region is currently in phase 1A, which includes nursing homes and long-term care facilities. He added that vaccinations have recently expanded to include EMS workers.

“We’re now in the third week of vaccination efforts in our local hospital systems, nursing homes and long term care facilities. EMS personnel are in the process of being vaccinated as we speak and we’ll soon begin vaccination of funeral home employees and mental health clinicians," said Bello.

“In order to provide vaccine to these groups we are starting to use all different venues and all different groups,” Dr. Bennett said. 

She said they are branching out to reach more people.

“The task for that’s being put together has broad representative of vulnerable groups in our populations and the task force will be charged with insuring that every consideration is given to equity, that no population is left behind," Dr. Bennett said.

Bennett said this first phase of vaccinations, phase 1A, includes about 100,000 people in Finger Lakes region.

According to Dr. Bennett, phase 1B will include non-healthcare essential workers and people over the age of 75. She says during phase 1c, people between the ages of 16 and 65 with chronic conditions will begin to be vaccinated. People who were missed during the first phases will be vaccinated during phase 2. Phase 3 will extend vaccinations to the general public between the ages of 16 and 65.

“These stages are based on the recommendations of the advisory committee on immunization practices, which is an advisory committee to the Centers of Disease Control and we are following them quite strictly in New York State,” said Dr. Bennett.

Dr. Bennett said there is no official timeline for when the region will advance to the next phase.

“The myriad of logistics is mind boggling,” said Dr. Mendoza.

Dr. Mendoza said as the kinks get ironed out and more vaccine arrives to our community. He expects the pace of the vaccine distribution to pick up, with a goal of having everyone who wants it to have access to it by the end of 2021, or even by the time the leaves fall. ​