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SUNY Upstate Trying To Reach LGBTQ, Other Underserved Groups For COVID-19 Vaccination

Governor Cuomo's Flickr page

Upstate Medical University is working on a plan to reach the region’s LGBTQ and other underserved populations as part of its role as a hub for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.  The group SAGE Upstate recently hosted a discussion with Terrence Howell, SUNY Upstate’s Director of Quality for Research. 

"We will create what we're going to call pods, where there will be LGBTQ-centered vaccine sites," Howell said.  "Maybe we can get the Q Center in Syracuse specifically fro those who may feel uncomfortable going to a different facility to get a vaccination."

He says having and controlling disease is nothing new for the LGBTQ community.

"It's been a sad road to be able to get here, but the LGBTQ community has been living in a pandemic for decades.  We have the infrastructure in place already."

Howell was actually on the team that executed the Syracuse-area clinical trial for the Pfizer vaccine.  He says while some can’t get the vaccine due to health concerns, that’s not the case for HIV patients.

"We did include HIV patients in our trial who had their HIV under control, and they did fine and were vaccinated through the trial.  So we know immune diseases have been tested."

Aside from the LGBTQ community, Howell says there are other underserved populations.

"We're trying to reach the Amish community.  We're trying to reach farmworker communities.  Within Onondaga County, we have non-English speaking farmworkers who we were told in some instances haven't even been told that this was going on, and they have no accesss to the internet."  

He says many of these populations have reason to question the medical establishment.  Howell says he’s working to ensure that SUNY Upstate partners with trusted community leaders to create safe spaces for vaccination. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at