East Flatbush church hosts vaccination drive for 500 seniors

Patients recover in a waiting room following their vaccination at God’s Battalion of Prayer Church in East Flatbush on Feb. 3.
Photo by Dean Moses

Physicians and volunteer nurses opened a temporary COVID-19 vacation site within the belly of a Brooklyn church on Wednesday. 

On Feb. 3, God’s Battalion of Prayer Church at 661 Linden Blvd. hosted a vaccination drive to help inoculate approximately 500 local seniors. Although those arriving to get immunized came with appointments, wait times lasted well over an hour for some due to space and social distancing restrictions. Individuals bundled up in coats shivered as they waited on a line that wrapped around the house of worship.

Borough President Eric Adams and Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel were among the local electeds who celebrated the vaccination efforts at the East Flatbush church.

“We are seeing a clear pattern in our vaccination distribution, with New Yorkers of color being vaccinated at lower rates than White New Yorkers across age groups. We are also seeing many shots going to people who live outside the city,” Adams said. “As I have said from the beginning of this process, the way we ensure an equitable distribution is by mobilizing credible messengers, which includes members of our faith community, to spread the word about the vaccine and connect those in the most need. Herd immunity can’t be for select communities — it must be universal.”

The East Flatbush inoculation was a part of a new partnership between God’s Battalion of Prayer Church, SOMOS Community Care and Elderplan — a collaboration Adams said should be the “model for how we engage on-the-ground organizations to reach at-risk populations.”

Despite the long wait times, the vaccination process was swift and staffers were grateful to be serving a community particularly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are trying to get the vaccine to our patients,” said Dr. Jacqueline Delmont, a physician with SOMOS, an association that connects doctors to low-income and underserved communities. “Not everybody is willing to facilitate their space and their location in order for us to do this. We were lucky that the God’s Battalion church allowed us to use their location. This is a community that has been very affected by COVID, and also in terms of mortality, so we are excited we are able to get the vaccine to the community.”

Delmont added that the elderly population, who have been given priority in New York’s vaccine rollout, have a difficult time traversing across the city to get their allotted dose. Therefore, she believes it is imperative that groups like SOMOS continue providing seniors with vaccine hubs closer to underserved communities.

“What we are taking into consideration is the social determinants,” Delmont said. “These are people that have financial constraints, that have mobility constraints, that have language barriers, and then there is the trust factor. It’s ideal to be able to bring the vaccine closer to them so that we can explain it in their language. They see people that look like them, it’s a much more intimate setting. The fear is lessened by the fact that there is a familiarity with the people administering the vaccine.”

The vaccination drive at God’s Battalion of Prayer Church was originally scheduled for Monday but was one of many inoculation sites forced to close due to the snowstorm. For nurses volunteering their time from Elderplan, Wednesday couldn’t come soon enough.   

“This is for my community. I am very excited and I’m happy,” said Dora Odigie, a registered nurse with Elderplan. “This virus is deadly. I’ve lost so many loved ones, I even lost my best friend’s mother. This was just, for me, a great opportunity just to vaccinate people to be safe.”

J’dranka Delik received an early birthday gift: the COVID-19 vaccine.Photo by Dean Moses

Those there to receive their vaccine were equally ecstatic.

“This is the best birthday present,” said J’dranka Delik, whose 67th birthday is next week. She and her husband were trying for “weeks and weeks, every day” to get an appointment when she finally found an opening for Feb. 3 at God’s Battalion.

The gift, she said, was comparable to a flu shot — and she sees no room for debate when it comes to the vaccine. “Is it better to get sick and die or have your arm hurt for 15 minutes? It’s ridiculous,” Delik said.

Wednesday’s community vaccination came the same day Mayor Bill de Blasio announced expanded eligibility requirements, which now include restaurant workers and taxi drivers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said Wednesday that three pop-up vaccination centers will come to Brooklyn as part of a statewide effort to speed up the vaccine’s rollout.

To make an appointment, eligible New Yorkers can visit covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov or call 1-833-NYS-4-VAX (1-833-697-4829). You can also check the Health Department’s website to find a vaccine provider near you.

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.