A look at community ambassadors’ role in the vaccine effort

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — After Monroe County officials announced 53 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, they once again pleaded with residents to get their COVID-19 vaccine.

Doctors say the county is still in better shape than other parts of the United States as far as COVID-19 transmission is concerned, but they told News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean that our positive test rate is going up, and new cases are almost exclusively in unvaccinated people.

In Monroe County, ambassadors are working to get more people vaccinated. They talk to people on the sidewalk or their porch who are unvaccinated and try to convince them it’s the right thing to do.

Ndondwa Mijoya is one of those ambassadors with Common Ground Health.

"I think that’s something I find the most surprising," Mijoya said.

Brean met Mijoya at the vaccine clinic the Monroe County Department of Public Health held at Monroe Community College’s downtown campus.

It’s Mijoya’s job to have face-to-face conversations with people who are not vaccinated.

Brean: "When you talk to someone who is not yet vaccinated what kind of concerns do they share with you?"

Mijoya: "The most common is that they’re injected with a chip. That they’re going to have severe side effects."

Mijoya said she tells people the vaccines have been tested, they’re safe and they work.

"Last week we met somebody who did not want to speak at all, told us to keep moving and some days it is like that — people don’t want to hear anything about it," Mijoya said. "Some right there and then will be like okay I’m willing to get vaccinated."

Brean and Mijoya met in ZIP code 14608, which includes parts of the Lyell Avenue neighborhood, the area near the Genesee River across from the University of Rochester. It’s one of 117 ZIP codes that New York State has identified as having a lower than average vaccination rate and a higher than average infection rate.

Infectious disease doctors from Strong Memorial Hospital and Rochester General Hospital said their COVID-19 cases are still very low.

"But we’re worried about the increases in the number of cases in the community because typically hospitalizations lag by a couple of weeks after people have infections in the community," Dr. Paul Graman said.

"And when a person is infected with the virus it gives it a chance to mutate and morph," Dr. Emil Lesho said.

Ambassadors were there during a vaccine clinic at the bus terminal downtown on Monday. Seventy people got their shots.

The county said the vaccine effort is going slow, but it’s working. As of Tuesday, 70% of adults in the Rochester area have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.