Combating Vaccination Disparities with the Weill Cornell CTSC


The Weill Cornell Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) with partner Hunter College School of Nursing, initiated a community vaccination program in February 2020 for underserved communities in New
York City.

Alarmed by the growing disparities in vaccination of minorities, Reverend Patrick O’Connor of First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica Queens, reached out to Julianne Imperato-McGinley, MD, Founding Director of the CTSC to help organize an initiative to address this issue.

The first program was hosted at the First Presbyterian Church, a longtime partner of the CTSC. Additionally, with information provided by Jennifer Tiffany, PhD, of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC, the CTSC joined with the Community Healthcare Network (CHN) of federally qualified health centers which serves neighborhoods throughout NYC.

With a team led by Jeff Zhu from the CTSC, and David Gross from CHN, the initial event was rapidly organized over the course of just 3 days and was a resounding success leading to a long-term collaboration with CHN.
4 long term vaccine sites at faith-based institutions across NYC were opened. They included: Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem; Fort Washington Collegiate Church; New Jerusalem Worship Center in Jamaica, Queens; Church of God in East New York, Brooklyn.

The vaccines were administered by volunteer faculty, Weill Cornell medical students and nursing students from our partner institution Hunter College. Community members helped with checking in participants. The sites were open 5 days a week, with a total of 103 vaccine events to date. A total of 22,597 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were administered. In addition, 47 pop-up vaccine sites were opened throughout NYC with a total of 4,338 doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and J&J vaccines administered.

Across both the pop-up and long-term sites, 69% vaccinated individuals identified as either black or Hispanic. In comparison, NYC citywide data, indicates that 31.8% of vaccinated individuals identified as Hispanic and 25.6% identified as African American1.

Dr. Julianne Imperato-McGinley, director of the CTSC who initiated the effort with Jeff Zhu, managing director of community engagement at the CTSC, says it's important to make vaccination available in people's own communities, particularly at “trusted spaces,” like places of worship or a neighborhood organization. “Community trust is essential for participation to help overcome vaccine hesitancy .”

CTSA Program In Action Goals
Goal 2: Engage Patients and Communities in Every Phase of the Translational Process