Southern Brooklyn pols are calling on the city and state to open more vaccination sites in their part of the borough — which is home to some of the city’s highest infection rates, as well as the highest populations of seniors.
“In communities like southern Brooklyn with a high population of senior citizens, it’s critically important that we have sufficient vaccination sites,” state Sen. Andrew Gounardes said in a statement. “We are in a race against time and our communities need access to the COVID vaccine now.”
There are no vaccination sites operating in seven southern Brooklyn zip codes, and too few sites for the area as a whole, according to Gounardes. City maps displaying vaccination sites show five locations currently serving the southeastern section of Brooklyn from Coney Island to Canarsie.
“There are very few sites in southern Brooklyn, including none in 11209, 11234, 11204, 11223, 11228, 11229, and 11425,” said Gounardes, who on Jan. 14 penned a letter with City Councilman Justin Brannan and Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to address the “vaccination desert between the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Coney Island Hospital.”
Southern Brooklyn has been a part of the borough especially impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, as the 11235 zip code currently leads the city for highest positivity rate and much of the area was under increased shutdowns in the fall as part of the state’s controversial cluster restrictions.
City health officials have hinted that they will open more sites across the Five Boroughs once they receive larger quantities of the vaccine, which is currently in dramatically short supply. New York City has received 558,425 portions of the first dose of the vaccine, and has administered 550,715 of those to citizens — leaving them with less than 8,000 doses of the vaccine on hand as of Tuesday morning, according to the city’s data.
Whenever those new doses do arrive, the politicians argue that southern Brooklyn should be considered one of the more urgent areas of the city to get vaccinated due to its infection rates and senior populations, and requested that the city both allocate a higher percentage of the doses, and bring more vaccination sites to the area.
“We need to see the city putting in resources in those areas that need it most. My district needs it most,” said City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who represents parts of Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.
The lack of vaccination sites in southern Brooklyn forces seniors to travel, which might require taking public transit or driving, and instead electeds and their constituents ask that there be vaccination locations within walking distance of their homes.
“Since this is a residential area out here, we need something nearby so people can reach them pretty easily, even walk to,” said Ed Jaworski, executive vice-president of the Madison-Marine-Homecrest Civic Association.
Coney Island reps — City Councilman Mark Treyger and State Senator Diane Savino — hosted a virtual presser on Tuesday calling on the city to introduce a cohesive plan to vaccinate the city’s homebound seniors as well as improving access to the city’s senior population as a whole.
“We still don’t have a comprehensive and cohesive plan to vaccinate homebound seniors or even an adequate plan to vaccinate seniors in general,” Treyger said, recommending the city install a vaccination czar and to make the registration process more user-friendly among other suggestions.
Deutsch penned a letter to the city and state on Jan. 17 recommending the city launch sites at the Shorefront YM-YWHA in Brighton Beach and in the large parking lot at Manhattan Beach Park, while also calling on more vaccine doses allocated to his edge of the borough, where he said shortages have also been leaving many seniors willing to travel unable to book an appointment.
“Now, I am begging the city, begging the governor’s office, we need vaccines,” Deutch said. “My constituents are telling me that they are trying to get appointments. Many elderly constituents are constantly calling and calling to make appointments. We need to make it easily available.”
Jaworski, a 76-year-old resident of Madison, said he has been trying to book an appointment daily at his closest vaccine site — a Rite Aid on Nostrand Avenue in Flatlands — to no avail since Jan. 12, receiving a response that there are no vaccines available within a range of 50 miles every time.
“I have been trying to reach that site ever since they changed the category for who’s eligible,” Jaworski said. “I have been trying daily for two weeks and every time nothing is available.”
While there have been citywide shortages for nearly a week, Gounardes said that many of southern Brooklyn’s sites booked up almost immediately due to the area’s outsized senior population.
“We’ve received many calls from seniors or family members of seniors who need convenient access to COVID vaccine sites in their own communities,” Gounardes said. “I urge City Hall not to leave southern Brooklyn behind and to add many more sites across our neighborhoods.”