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Vaccinating everyone in Monroe County will take more than a year at current rate

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Max Schulte/WXXI News
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Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza is seen in this Dec. 14, 2020, file photo.

Vaccinating all residents of Monroe County and the Finger Lakes region will take more than a year at the rate at which people are being inoculated, county officials and hospital administrators said Tuesday.

The admission was a stark acknowledgement that administering the vaccine has been much slower going than officials had anticipated.

The officials, including Monroe County Public Health Commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza and Dr. Nancy Bennett, the University of Rochester Medical Center’s director of community health and prevention, estimated that upward of 21,200 doses of vaccine had been administered to date and that the county would run through its supply by the end of the week.

At the same time, none could say precisely how many doses have been delivered to Monroe County but added that they projected ramping up the inoculation rate in the coming weeks as “kinks” were ironed out.

They said some of those kinks have included scheduling vaccinations and getting a better handle on how many people have been vaccinated at the local level. Officials said much of that logistical information was currently processed through the state.

“I think we sort of had some fantasies about how fast this would go,” Bennett said during a news conference.

Mendoza anticipated speeding up the vaccination rate “substantially” in the coming weeks, but acknowledged that the rollout was much slower than he would like. He said he hoped that vaccinations could be completed by the fall, but that that was contingent upon the availability of doses and smoothing out the process.

“At the current rate, no, we’re not going to be able to finish by the end of the calendar year and I don’t think that anybody wants to be doing this next year,” Mendoza said.

“There’s no way we’re going to be able to vaccinate the entire population if we go only at this rate,” he added. “We’re going to have to speed up in order to get to the finish line, which I’d like to think is sometime this fall.”

Officials said they expected to roll out an online dashboard in the next week or two that provided vaccination data in real time, including how many doses are on hand in the region and how many people have been vaccinated.

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Credit University of Rochester Medical Center
Dr. Nancy Bennett is the director of the University of Rochester Medical Center's Center for Community Health and Prevention.

“We should know exactly how many doses are here, but we don’t actually,” Bennett said. “There are so many pieces of this puzzle that we just don’t know … We’re just beginning to receive those data from the state.”

Officials stressed that the availability of the vaccine for the public would be publicized on a mass scale as the inoculation rollout progressed.

The region, along with the rest of the state, is currently in the first phase of the rollout, meaning that vaccinations are being administered to health care personnel, first responders, nursing home residents and funeral directors, with some exceptions.

After the news conference Tuesday, Monroe County announced that it had confirmed 646 new coronavirus cases, slightly higher than the seven-day rolling average of 606. The rate at which people being tested for the virus are found to be infected was at 9.8%, meaning nearly 1 in 10 people, a rate that is among the highest of any region in the state.

David Andreatta is CITY's editor. He can be reached at dandreatta@rochester-citynews.com.