One stop, shot delivery: Vaccination hubs pop-up in hard hit areas

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Destiny Stone was happy to receive a vaccination in her neighborhood.
Photo by Dean Moses

The effort to get a life-saving needle into the arms of all New Yorkers continues with pop-up vaccination sites in hard hit areas.

On March 4th, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced 12 community based-pop up vaccination sites with the promise to inoculate over 4,000 New Yorkers. This endeavor is a part of the state’s commitment to provide equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, working with community leaders and outreach teams to disseminate shots to those eligible.

 “Reaching underserved communities across the state is critical to a vaccination strategy that serves all New Yorkers, and community-based pop-up sites bring the vaccine directly to those who have been hardest hit by the virus,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release, adding “As we continue to expand access, we’re also partnering with community leaders to address vaccine skepticism which remains a large problem in underserved communities. Fairness and equity in the vaccine distribution process remain our top priorities and we will not rest until COVID is defeated once and for all.”

The Pfizer vaccine was distributed at the Spring Creek Towers’ pop-up vaccination site. Photo by Dean Moses

Various zip-codes in East New York and Canarsie have sat steadily in the red and orange zones for months, meaning the COVID-19 infection rate is extensive in those neighborhoods. In an attempt to both combat this and to keep those vulnerable safe, 12 makeshift vaccine hubs were erected just for the week, injecting thousands.

Since March 4th, local community spaces were used to accommodate about 4,000 patients across 12 sites through the Vaccine Equity Task Force initiative. On March 6 and 7th, residents in Spring Creek Towers—formerly known as Starrett City—and others who live in the 11239 and 11207 zip codes, were invited to receive their vaccination at a pop-up hub in the Brooklyn Sports Club—a local fitness facility and community center. Within a two-day period, over 1000 people were treated in the Spring Creek Towers site alone.

The tight-knit community of Spring Creek Towers is home to a high-risk elderly population and many more who earn their living as essential workers. It is with this in mind that the lower-level of 1540 Van Siclen Avenue was chosen to help save lives. Serving these two hard hit zip codes, this Spring Creek Towers location looks to aid those who would otherwise have to make rigorous travel plans, which for a vulnerable person could be a life-threatening situation. The Twin Pines managed apartment complex is cut-off from the city, requiring a bus ride to access train services, simply in order to reach other parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan. In light of these travel concerns, staff from Maimonides Medical Center brought the Pfizer vaccine to residents.

“We’ve seen people die every day and if we can save one life, it’s worth our 7-day work week,” said Michael Brincat, liaison for the Cancer Center at Maimonides Medical Center who volunteered his weekend to help distribute the doses.

Brincat and other staff members from Maimonides have been working throughout the pandemic, and they are still energized and happy to get as many people vaccinated as possible.  According to Brincat, Maimonides Medical Center has given over 20,000 doses.

“We at Maimonides are committed to making sure that all New Yorkers have access to the vaccine. We are really working hard to increase access, especially communities like Starrett City where it’s hard to go from place to place,” said Dr. Jenny Tsang-Quinn, who also volunteered her time to help facilitate vaccinations to those in the community.

On Saturday, 390 inoculations were administered while a further 600 doses were expected to be disseminated over the course of Sunday. Many individuals found the process a quick and easy one.

Josephe Vesprey is from Canarsie and works within the New York City Public school system, and for the past few weeks attempting to get an appointment since she became eligible has been difficult. “I didn’t want to go to Manhattan,” Vesprey said, explaining how fearful she is to travel. 

Sharon Harrison is unable to walk long distances, so having a vaccination site right around the coroner from her apartment was essential and convenient.Photo by Dean Moses

Sharon Harrison, a Spring Creek Towers resident, is also afraid to use mass transit during the pandemic. In addition to having feet issues, limiting her ability to travel, Harrison needed to find a vaccination site that was easily accessible. The Brooklyn Sports Club is right around the coroner from her apartment.

“I feel okay, but just a little wary about the side effects mentioned, like fever and soreness. Hopefully everything will be okay because this is my first time. I got a text from my development that they were going to have this,” Harrison said.

Although the vaccination site was only open for two days, it provided residents a safe, nearby space to receive their inoculation. Maimonides will be returning on March 27th and March 28th to distribute the second dose, and those who celebrate Passover will be afforded an alternative appointment.

Spring Creek Towers is a community that has a large elderly and essential worker population. Photo by Dean Moses

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